Sam Bankman-Fried not allowed to blame FTX counsel in opening statement, judge rules

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, whose trial is set to begin on Tuesday, is not allowed to pin the blame for his alleged wrongdoings on  FTX’s lawyers in his opening statement, a federal judge ruled on Sunday.

Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in his order that Bankman-Fried focusing on the involvement of FTX counsel in some company decisions bears the risk of causing confusion or prejudicing the jury.

“[The] risk of confusion and unfair prejudice to the government were defendant to focus on the presence or involvement of lawyers at or for FTX and Alameda – without any degree of specificity about what they were present for or involved in, what their tasks were, what exactly they knew, and what the defendant knew about what the lawyers knew and were doing – is palpable,” the judge wrote.

Plan to partially blame FTX lawyers

In August, lawyers for Sam Bankman-Fried said they plan to argue that he was given legal advice on matters including auto-delete policies and loans to FTX and Alameda which made him believe he was “acting in good faith.”

Bankman-Fried’s attorneys added that they plan to “elicit evidence” that lawyers from Fenwick & West LLP and in-house counsel were involved in “reviewing and approving” certain decisions, according to an August court filing. 

In response, the Department of Justice argued that the court should order the defendant to provide more details regarding his defense strategy to be raised at trial. Failing that, it asked the court to prevent certain types of questioning, evidence and arguments not relevant to the case.

Jury selection for Bankman-Fried’s trial will begin on Tuesday and could stretch into the remainder of the week. 

Disclaimer: The former CEO and majority shareholder of The Block has disclosed a series of loans from former FTX and Alameda founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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