US District Judge Lewis Kaplan has made a ruling that shakes the upcoming trial of former CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF). This ruling bars all seven expert witnesses proposed by SBF from testifying in his trial, scheduled to commence on October 3, 2023.
As earlier reported, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) raised objections to the defense’s witnesses, citing reasons ranging from lack of clarity on their testimony topics to unsuitability for a US criminal trial. Judge Kaplan has sided with the DOJ.
Judge Kaplan’s ruling further hinged on his belief that the testimony of these witnesses would either be irrelevant, unhelpful, or even prejudicial to the jury. He pointed out deficiencies in some of the witnesses’ disclosures and questioned the reliability of their opinions.
Among the key witnesses denied a chance to testify is Lawrence Akka, a British barrister, who was expected to shed light on the intricacies of FTX’s terms of service. Another witness, University of Michigan professor Andrew Di Wu, was also excluded from the lineup.
Slim Hope for Sam Bankman-Fried’s Defense
While Judge Kaplan’s ruling presents a substantial hurdle for SBF’s defense, there’s still a glimmer of hope. SBF’s defense team still has an opportunity to present some of their proposed witnesses.
However, this comes with certain conditions and legal hurdles, such as providing proper disclosures three days prior to the witnesses’ potential testimony. Judge Kaplan’s decision leaves room for the US Justice Department to object to these witnesses as well.
The rejection of these expert witnesses, who were supposed to elucidate complex matters related to cryptocurrency markets, English contracts, and the FTX cryptocurrency exchange operations, comes as a blow to SBF’s defense strategy. The trial’s outcome is now even more uncertain.
Background on SBF’s Case
Sam Bankman-Fried faces allegations of fraudulent activities related to the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, including misleading customers, commingling funds, and making unlawful political contributions. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In addition to the criminal charges, SBF is facing civil lawsuits from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), further intensifying the legal scrutiny surrounding his actions.