Sam Bankman-Fried made the not-easily-defensible decision to testify in his trial, and apparently things are not off to a good start:
Sam Bankman-Fried is so fucked.
I have come to court every day since opening arguments thinking, Surely things cannot get worse for this man. Surely we have reached the bottom. Unfortunately, there is no bottom — in the prosecution’s telling, FTX and Alameda Research, his exchange and trading company, were matryoshka dolls of crime. Today, the defense started its case, which should theoretically present Bankman-Fried in a better light. But if what I saw of him on the stand is any indication, he may be more damning for himself than any of the prosecution’s witnesses.
Whatever Bankman-Fried can’t pin on Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, he is essentially trying to off-load onto FTX lawyer Dan Friedberg. But blaming your lawyers for your decisions often implicates stuff — conversations, communications, documents — that are sometimes covered by attorney-client privilege. (If you blow up your own attorney-client privilege, it’s much worse for you than it is for anyone else, which is why most adults blame their own lawyers only under extreme circumstances.) The defense appears to be trying to thread the needle by saying that Bankman-Fried believed everything at FTX was fine because lawyers had been involved.
So today the jury got to go home early while the judge conducted an odd evidentiary hearing to figure out exactly what Bankman-Fried wants to tell the jury — and how much of it going to be admissible.
Bankman-Fried took the stand as part of this hearing. This meant that prosecutor Danielle Sassoon got a crack at him, and boy howdy, she beat him like a piñata.
Look, if what I saw today was a taste of what Bankman-Fried has to expect on the cross-exam in front of the jury, he’s cooked. He was obviously evading questions, trying to pour forth verbiage to distract Sassoon from what she’d asked. It didn’t work. And as she asked the same questions over and over, he looked worse and worse, trying to wriggle out from answering them. This is to say nothing of the long, repeated sections of “I don’t recall.” Unless he pulls out of testifying, the jury is in for a once-in-a-lifetime shitshow.
S B-F’s decision to go to trial is certainly showing alturism toward his lawyers, but my BAYESIAN PRIOR is that I don’t think it’s going to be very effective.