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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Closing time for Sam Bankman-Fried

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Let’s be trustworthy: The information are unhealthy for Sam Bankman-Fried. The prosecution, within the closing assertion delivered by Nicolas Roos (pronounced “Rose”, although he gained’t right you for those who get it improper, as Decide Lewis Kaplan did for a lot of the trial) right now, went via a variety of contemporaneous written proof that instructed that Bankman-Fried was very, very responsible of wire fraud and conspiracy fees at FTX. Roos gave a assured, restrained argument, relying closely on that proof to argue Bankman-Fried had used FTX buyer deposits as his personal personal piggy financial institution, funneling them via his buying and selling agency, Alameda Analysis.

He additionally pointed to why Bankman-Fried had accomplished it: “The defendant was grasping.” 

That closing assertion actually may have ended after the primary hour. The proof that Bankman-Fried was concerned — from his Google Meet with the other alleged co-conspirators, to the metadata linking him to various incriminating spreadsheets, to the funds traced to entities he managed — would have been sufficient. However we obtained a couple of extra hours anyway, as if Roos had rented a backhoe for his pile of proof and was going to get as a lot use out of it as doable.

As Roos spoke, the jury was targeted very carefully on him. Nobody gave the impression to be napping. I didn’t see anybody look on the clock; many jurors have been taking notes. Although Roos was interrupted by an AV mishap when the screens used to point out the jurors the proof briefly went out within the center row, the closing argument was clean. Roos talked on to the jury, glancing sometimes at his personal notes.

Cohen mentioned the prosecution was making an attempt to make Bankman-Fried right into a villain

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Watching Roos, I got here to know why the protection had been jumping around in time so much. Chronological order was unhealthy for Bankman-Fried: it confirmed fairly clearly that he was learning things and lying about them. The “Belongings are fantastic” tweet, despatched November eleventh, was 4 hours after a Sign chat the place Bankman-Fried acknowledged an $8 billion distinction between what he owed clients and what FTX may pay.

So I used to be sympathetic to Mark Cohen, the lawyer for the protection, who didn’t seem to be he had a lot to work with. However then his closing assertion managed to make issues worse? To start with, he gave the impression to be studying instantly from a doc he’d created, slightly than wanting up on the jury. He spoke softly, nearly in a monotone, as if he hoped to lull the jurors to sleep.

Maybe predictably, Cohen emphasised that errors aren’t unlawful. And he sought to current Alameda and FTX as reliable, modern companies. It was kind of laborious to know precisely what they have been innovating or how, however by no means thoughts. It’s actually true that at its peak, FTX’s valuation was very excessive.

Cohen mentioned the prosecution was making an attempt to make Bankman-Fried right into a villain. He then confirmed the jury numerous photographs that made Bankman-Fried look, nicely, unhealthy: him hanging out with Invoice Clinton and Tony Blair, lounging on a personal jet, and on the Tremendous Bowl with Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom. I don’t know why Cohen selected to remind us of those photographs, however he did. Sure, the prosecution was portray an uncharitable image of Bankman-Fried however there’s no have to reinforce it.

Cohen launched issues that I feel have been meant to confuse the jury, however appeared to merely bore them

We discovered Bankman-Fried was working very laborious, 12 hours a day, which appeared low: Bankman-Fried had previously testified he worked as many as 22 hours a day. However I couldn’t let you know what precisely he was doing for all that point, as there was treasured little testimony about it. Equally, I heard loads a couple of information safety coverage the protection couldn’t produce.

In Cohen’s telling, the federal government’s cross-examination had been unfair to Bankman-Fried — if he answered at size, Roos framed his solutions as too rambling, and if he answered briefly, Roos mentioned he sounded evasive. Look, I used to be there — and I do know phrase salad and evasions once I hear them. It’s form of my enterprise! Bankman-Fried’s solutions to questions he didn’t like, even when posed by the actual judge, weren’t good. Saying he was “removed from polished,” and “was himself; he was Sam” doesn’t actually get the work accomplished. It particularly doesn’t get the work accomplished when the Bankman-Fried we noticed on direct examination was hotter, funnier, and really totally different than the one we noticed on cross. That Bankman-Fried was an terrible lot just like the one we knew from media appearances earlier than November 2022.

Cohen launched issues that I feel have been meant to confuse the jury, however appeared to merely bore them. Throughout an extended digression about Alameda’s internet asset worth, for example, I noticed a number of jurors look on the clock in the back of the courtroom. The identical went for dialogue of FTX’s threat engines. 

Cohen even managed to make Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison sound more reliable, not much less, by defending the tweets she sent out in the November period when FTX was failing. That’s an unforced error. Undercutting Ellison’s testimony — alongside that of Gary Wang, Adam Yedidia, and Nishad Singh — was one of many uncommon gambits I may think about working for Bankman-Fried’s protection. If Cohen is saying she is dependable right here, why ought to we doubt her elsewhere?

Even essentially the most gifted protection lawyer would battle with this case

We nonetheless have to listen to the prosecution’s rebuttal to Cohen’s arguments, comparable to they have been, earlier than the case goes to the jury. However I feel even essentially the most gifted protection lawyer would battle with this case. The documentary proof for the prosecution is simply too overwhelming, and there’s little or no proof to again Bankman-Fried’s telling of occasions, which contradicts all three cooperating witnesses — and Yedidia, who hasn’t been charged with something. Plus, the final particular person the jury heard converse was Bankman-Fried, and we did set up at size that he loves to lie.

The principle factor the closing arguments made clear was how lopsided the case was. Bankman-Fried’s protection seems to be that he’s a pleasant boy who would by no means do something to harm anybody on function. An introvert! Who doesn’t even do leisure medication! When Cohen requested the jury to maintain him  in thoughts as they deliberated, Bankman-Fried crumpled the water bottle in his hand, making a noise. Glancing over, I noticed he was wanting instantly on the jury, with an expression on his face that instructed he may cry.

Bankman-Fried is correct to be frightened. He introduced excuses. The prosecution introduced receipts.

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