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Sam Bankman-Fried’s Desperate Last Stand

Defending the Indefensible? Sam Bankman-Fried’s Lawyers Deserve Better

As the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried has unfolded the last couple of weeks, one question has lingered heavily in the air. Would he testify?

We now know the answer.

Today, SBF’s defense team revealed that the fallen crypto king would indeed be taking the stand. It could happen as early as Thursday, as the prosecution side hands over to the defense to make its case.

This is an excerpt from The Node newsletter, a daily roundup of the most pivotal crypto news on CoinDesk and beyond. You can subscribe to get the full newsletter here.

SBF has faced a barrage of incriminating testimony at the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan. Once close and intimate colleagues, including Caroline Ellison, Nishad Singh and Gary Wang, all now working with the government, have lined up to say SBF knowingly defrauded investors, lenders and customers to the tune of billions of dollars. Legal observers agree that the case has been going extremely badly for SBF and that the defense has generally failed to hit its stride thus far.

“I haven’t seen a genius level of defense that you would expect to see with somebody who has money,” Joseph Tully, a prominent criminal defense attorney, told a CoinDesk Twitter Spaces event about the trial last week. “I think what this case needs is a street fighter and I don’t think SBF is getting that. And that’s disappointing to me.”

Such was the defense’s poor showing in questioning witnesses that the judge even seemed to be mocking SBF’s lawyers at times. “There were some moments where the judge seemed to almost be making fun of the defense lawyer,” Josh Klayman, a digital assets lawyer with Linklaters, told the same Spaces panel. “There were moments of levity and yet they were levity at the expense, in my view, of the defense counsel.”

Klayman and Tully both thought SBF would take the stand this week – for two reasons.

One, SBF has long had confidence in his persuasive capabilities. Following FTX’s collapse last November, SBF back-channeled with numerous reporters to tell his side of story, often downplaying his knowledge of what was happening and – in a preview of his current defense – making out that he was more out-of-his-depth than malevolent and calculating. He even started his own Substack, going against the advice of numerous lawyers who cautioned…

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