Bankman-Fried’s Legal Team Cries Foul Over Ukrainian Customer Testimony

Bankman-Fried's Legal Team Cries Foul Over Ukrainian Customer Testimony

Attorneys for Sam Bankman-Fried have written a letter to the judge, requesting the court block a government witness, a Ukrainian customer who “lost a substantial portion” of his life savings due to the FTX collapse. Bankman-Fried’s lawyers believe the witness’s testimony about hardships faced due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine would be irrelevant to the charges and highly prejudicial, as it would appeal unfairly to the jury’s sympathies.

Bankman-Fried’s Attorneys Oppose Ukrainian Witness Testimony in FTX Legal Battle

On Oct. 2, 2023, the law firm Cohen & Gresser submitted a letter to the judge presiding over the criminal case against the former FTX boss Sam Bankman-Fried. The government wants to allow a customer witness from Ukraine to testify remotely and detail how he “lost a substantial portion” of his life savings due to FTX’s demise. The lawyers insist allowing the Ukrainian witness to testify remotely would violate Bankman-Fried’s Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him.

The lawyers further added that a customer from a country under a foreign invasion should be excluded. “The proposed testimony that is unique to this witness would apparently reference hardships and individual circumstances created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Bankman-Fried’s lawyer Mark Cohen wrote. The attorney added:

Such testimony would be irrelevant to the charged crimes and would serve only to elicit the jury’s sympathy and outrage.

In another letter, Cohen argues against customer witnesses and investor testimony. The lawyer calls the request premature because the court should not rule on the admissibility of testimony in the abstract without knowing the specific statements at issue. The letter further notes that customer testimony about their subjective understanding of FTX’s custody of assets is irrelevant and investor testimony about materiality is improper.

“The government seemingly wants evidence regarding how customers (and other putative victims) understood the relationship they chose to enter with FTX to be admissible only if offered by the government but excluded if offered by the defense,” Cohen contends. The lawyer’s letter adds:

Having previously argued that it is irrelevant whether customers were ‘negligent, gullible, or insufficiently vigilant,’ the government now insists that testimony that customers’ beliefs and their understanding – whether correct or incorrect – of alleged statements by Mr. Bankman-Fried is ‘directly relevant’ to a critical issue. The Government cannot have it both ways.

The letter urges the denial of the government’s motion as premature and unfounded. It argues the defense should be permitted to cross-examine any witnesses allowed to give these categories of testimony. “At a minimum, if the court permits the government to elicit testimony of customers’ personal understandings and beliefs, the defense must be allowed to probe the nature, basis, and factual accuracy of those views,” Cohen concludes.

What do you think about the letters Sam Bankman-Fried’s lawyers wrote concerning specific witnesses? Share your thoughts and opinions about this subject in the comments section below.


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