The trial of Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) entered a pivotal phase on Nov. 3 as the prosecution delivered its final rebuttal to the defense’s closing argument before the jury began its deliberations for a verdict.
The jury has begun deliberations to reach a verdict by the end of the day, but it is unclear if they will be able to do so in such a short time.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon, who is leading the prosecution on behalf of the government, began her argument by emphasizing the central allegation of fraud. She told the jury:
“Telling your customers to trust you with their money and then taking that money and spending it on yourself… that is not a reasonable business decision. That is fraud.”
The prosecution’s argument revolved around the notion that SBF had deceived FTX customers and acted improperly with their funds. Sassoon reiterated that the prosecution had embraced its burden and had met it convincingly, urging the jury to scrutinize the defense’s assertions closely.
The core of the prosecution’s case lay in demonstrating discrepancies between SBF’s public image and his private actions. While he projected himself as a legitimate business figure with ambitions of running for the presidency, behind the scenes, he was allegedly involved in questionable financial activities.
Sassoon highlighted the contradictions between the defendant’s public statements, tweets, and congressional testimony and his actual conduct, backed by evidence such as the asset management policy. Furthermore, she pointed to evidence of discrepancies in financial statements.
The government’s case heavily relied on the testimony of cooperating witnesses who provided critical insights into SBF’s spending habits and financial decisions. Sassoon underscored the consistency of the cooperators’ statements as they were part of SBF’s inner circle and refuted claims that they were not truthful.
In her closing statements, Sassoon maintained that even if the jury were to accept the defendant’s testimony, he would still be guilty of fraud. She argued that SBF was the central figure in the alleged fraudulent activities, a point that the prosecution contended was supported by substantial evidence.
Sassoon firmly stated:
“The customers would not have put their money on the exchange if they knew what was going on.”
She discredited the defense’s assertion that SBF’s actions were part of a strategy, comparing it to a person stealing from a jewelry store and then asserting there was no security guard.
The prosecution also drew attention to SBF’s efforts to raise funds in the Middle East to cover the alleged financial shortfalls. They stressed the concept of “conscious avoidance” as a pivotal element of the case, suggesting that the defendant was aware of the wrongdoing but chose to look the other way.
The prosecution ended its argument by urging the jury to find SBF guilty and not fall for the defense’s “made up” claims that he was unaware of what was happening at Alameda. Sassoon said:
“He [SBF] tried to trick the customers, then tried to destroy evidence. He made false statements to the press. He thought he would never be caught”
Jury begins deliberations
Following the rebuttal argument, Judge Kaplan provided comprehensive instructions to the jury, outlining the charges against SBF and their responsibilities as jurors.
He emphasized that the government did not need to prove that actual harm had befallen the victims but rather that the defendant had contemplated harm. The judge further clarified that intent could be inferred from circumstantial evidence.
The cryptocurrency industry and legal experts are closely monitoring this trial due to its potential impact on the regulation and accountability of digital asset-related businesses. With the prosecution having delivered its closing arguments, the fate of SBF now rests in the hands of the jury.
The jury will deliberate until 8:15 p.m. E.T. If they fail to reach consensus by then, the deliberations will continue from Nov. 4. and could last multiple days if needed.
CryptoSlate will continue to provide updates as they become available.
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