Crypto Mogul and former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried Testifies in Trial

In a pivotal turn of events, Sam Bankman-Fried, the former crypto mogul embroiled in a high-stakes trial, took the witness stand on Thursday, marking a crucial moment in the ongoing legal proceedings. However, the jury was conspicuously absent as U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan called for a special hearing to deliberate on the admissibility of certain topics in Bankman-Fried’s testimony.

“We’re in the home stretch,” assured Judge Kaplan to the jurors as they were temporarily excused, hinting at the trial’s anticipated conclusion next week. The hearing, presided over by Bankman-Fried’s lead lawyer, Mark Cohen of Cohen & Gresser, delved into various subjects, including Bankman-Fried’s interactions with regulators in the Bahamas and legal counsel received from FTX.

The cross-examination led by Assistant US Attorney Danielle Sassoon proved to be a rigorous exchange, with Sassoon scrutinizing Bankman-Fried’s legal advisors’ roles at different junctures. At one point, she posed a pointed question, inquiring if “embezzling customer funds” could be equated with safeguarding customer assets, prompting a ruling from Judge Kaplan on the question’s scope.

Undeterred, Bankman-Fried responded firmly, negating any such equivalence. “I felt the need to answer that one,” he remarked, punctuating the moment with a smile.

Thursday’s testimony, though significant, is considered by legal experts as a warm-up for Bankman-Fried. He revealed that he believed his trading firm, Alameda Research, was permitted to utilize FTX customer funds based on a Payment Agent Agreement. “I am not a lawyer,” he acknowledged, emphasizing that he had not thoroughly reviewed the document.

This trial is a culmination of seven charges, including fraud and conspiracy, that could potentially lead to a maximum sentence of 110 years in prison for Bankman-Fried. Allegations center around the misappropriation of billions from FTX’s customer base.

Assistant US Attorney Sassoon’s questions touched on a range of topics, from Bankman-Fried’s use of encrypted messages at FTX to personal loans and the intricacies of the Payment Agent Agreement. Judge Kaplan, in response to Bankman-Fried’s lengthy replies, interjected, emphasizing, “The answer is, ‘You don’t remember.'”

Before Thursday, the jury had only witnessed Bankman-Fried through video clips, including excerpts from his podcast appearance discussing Alameda Research and his congressional testimony on cryptocurrencies.

As the trial hurtles toward its conclusion, the weight of Bankman-Fried’s testimony remains palpable, with both the defense and prosecution poised for a decisive denouement.

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