FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried will testify during his criminal trial, hoping to convince a jury that he is not guilty of seven fraud and conspiracy charges, his defense lawyers said during a teleconference on Wednesday.
The revelation comes as federal prosecutors are expected to wind their case down. They’ve signaled their final witness will be called to the stand on Thursday. After that, Bankman-Fried’s defense attorneys will have the opportunity to present their telling of FTX’s collapse.
Bankman-Fried will testify after the defense presents three witnesses, Bankman-Fried’s lead lawyer, Mark Cohen of Cohen & Gresser, said to the court. The jury has heard at length from Bankman-Fried’s inner circle, yet the former crypto mogul has remained silent so far.
While Bankman-Fried’s testimony has the potential to convince the jury that he is not guilty, it also opens the former crypto mogul up to several pitfalls. Federal prosecutors will have the opportunity to submit evidence to discredit him, which wouldn’t have otherwise been allowed. During cross-examination, there’s a potential for prolonged scrutiny as they could keep him on the stand for hours.
Brian Newman, an attorney at the law firm Dykema Gossett, previously told Decrypt that Bankman-Fried would effectively be walking a “tightrope” on the stand. With the wide breadth of public statements made by Bankman-Fried, federal prosecutors have a substantial amount of prior remarks that could be leveraged to challenge his credibility.
At the same time, Bankman-Fried’s decision to testify on his behalf isn’t all that surprising. He went on what appeared to be a self-directed media tour and regularly posted long Twitter threads reflecting on the collapse of FTX. But two weeks after FTX filed for bankruptcy, Bankman-Fried was dropped by his lawyers for “incessant and disruptive tweeting” according to a report by Bloomberg Law.
Prior to Wednesday, Bankman-Fried’s defense had only hinted at the possibility of his testimony. In a court filing the day before, federal prosecutors told the court that they had received a list of six potential witnesses, but it did not mention the former crypto mogul.
At one point, Bankman-Fried’s defense said a lack of access to prescription medication for attention deficit hyper-activity disorder (ADHD) was a “growing concern” that weighed on his ability to focus as “the critical decision of whether Mr. Bankman-Fried will testify” approached.
Federal prosecutors said early on that they had several weeks of witnesses and evidence to go through to convince a jury of Bankman-Fried’s misconduct. However, his defense has signaled their case won’t stretch more than a week and a half.
Cohen’s comments indicate that Bankman-Fried could have his moment in court as early as Thursday.
Edited by Stacy Elliott.