Oct 3, 2023 - Economy

Disgraced FTX founder gets no plea deal as New York trial begins

A cart with binders marked for the Sam Bankman-Fried criminal trial.

Binders marked as defense exhibits at federal court for the first day of Sam Bankman-Fried's trial today. Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

The trial of former FTX chief Sam Bankman-Fried kicked off Tuesday morning with jury selection at federal court in New York.

Driving the news: During the morning session, the U.S. government said there were no discussions of a plea deal and that no such offers had been given.

Catch up fast: Bankman-Fried, known as SBF, faces seven counts — two of wire fraud and multiple counts of conspiracy — after it was discovered some $8.7 billion in customer funds were missing from the crypto exchange.

  • If convicted, he could face a sentence of 110 years in prison.

Zoom in: Bankman Fried arrived in his usual dark suit, but without his signature curls — donning the shortest haircut since his court appearances.

  • Judge Lewis Kaplan's early remarks were directed at SBF. "You have the right to testify," he said. "[Lawyers] can't make the decision for you."
  • Kaplan provided options for Bankman-Friend to indicate to him, discreetly, whether he'd like to offer his personal testimony after the U.S. government and his own counsel rests. SBF said he understood.

Of note: A full witness list has not been produced yet, but SBF is not likely to testify.

Separately, Kaplan addressed the 50 potential jurors Tuesday morning, describing the complicated crypto case, simply:

  • The defendant is a man named Sam Bankman-Fried.
  • He founded an exchange called FTX where crypto is traded, just like stocks, and also, a hedge fund called Alameda.
  • He is accused of having defrauded customers, investors and those who lent the companies money. He pleads not guilty.

Details: Voir dire, as the preliminary examination of jurors is called, appeared to try to suss out to what degree jurors were familiar with crypto, the story of FTX, and the people involved.

  • There were questions about whether the nature of the case or the defendant would inhibit a juror to provide fair, impartial judgment.

Go deeper: The trial of Sam Bankman-Fried: Key players

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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