The trial of disgraced crypto king Sam Bankman-Fried faced an unexpected twist when he claimed he relied on legal advice for key business decisions.
Bankman-Fried told a federal judge that lawyers helped him delete communications and make loans to himself.
Prosecutors said such actions let him commit crimes that led to the collapse of his crypto exchange, FTX.
However, under cross-examination, Bankman-Fried struggled to recall specific conversations with his lawyers, casting doubt on his defense strategy.
The unplanned courtroom detour occurred after federal prosecutors had rested their case, featuring 18 witnesses, including former confidants who testified against Bankman-Fried.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan had to rule on the admissibility of Bankman-Fried’s testimony due to disagreements between the prosecution and defense.
The defendant’s claim lawyers guided his business decisions faced skepticism from the judge, who offered a hypothetical scenario highlighting its implausibility.
If convicted, Bankman-Fried could face a lengthy prison sentence.
The decision to testify is risky, as a false statement could lead to a longer sentence if convicted.
Nonetheless, it could potentially result in a hung jury.
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Bankman-Fried, who had been active on social media and gave interviews to defend himself, has not followed the conventional path of a defendant.
During his testimony, Bankman-Fried mentioned using interactive communication platforms like Signal and Slack.
He also discussed policies, including message deletion, with lawyers from FTX and an external law firm.
However, his ability to recall specific details and conversations was questioned during the cross-examination.
The case is expected to be submitted to the jury in the coming week.