The trial of Sam Bankman-Fried is set to resume with the former head of the FTX crypto empire poised to take the stand as early as Thursday as he seeks to fend off federal fraud charges.
At a teleconference held Wednesday by Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over the trial in the Manhattan federal court, the government indicated it expects to wrap up its prosecution of Bankman-Fried around 10 a.m. on Thursday. An attorney for Bankman-Fried said the defense will potentially call three witnesses, which will take about an hour, before calling the defendant to testify.
Bankman-Fried’s testimony is expected to be critical to his defense after several of his former colleagues at FTX and its affiliated hedge fund Alameda Research have testified that he directed them to commit fraud.
"Needless to say, there are extraordinarily high stakes for Sam Bankman-Fried," Andrew Stoltmann, an attorney with expertise in securities law, told FOX Business. "But I think the number one goal is going to be the elimination of any doubt about not having the criminal intent to commit these crimes. He has to counteract Caroline Ellison and the other FTX former employees who’ve been indicted, and without that, it’s game, set, match."
"He has to feed into the stereotype that he’s this MIT-educated savant who was above the daily fray and delegated to others," Stoltmann added. "Now that’s obviously difficult because you know the buck stops with him. But I think he needs to convince the jurors that it was these other executives who engaged in the fraud and not him."
Lexie Rigden, a criminal defense attorney with Rigden Lieberman, told FOX Business that in its questioning of Bankman-Fried, the government will need to try to keep things as simple and engaging as possible for the jury given that it is "such a complex white collar case" involving cryptocurrency.
"People don’t understand crypto as it is and I think the prosecution is going to need to highlight for the jury both in their cross-examination and in their closing eventually that he actually hurt people, that this wasn’t a victimless crime," Rigden said. "This wasn’t just a bunch of frivolous rich people who were investing in this and it went belly up and it didn’t really matter whether they were able to ever recoup their money."
"They’re going to have to hit him with his conduct and say… ‘You bought a house in the Bahamas, you paid for a ridiculously expensive Super Bowl commercial, you paid Tom Brady, you paid Larry David, you did all these things and you were in cahoots with your friends who have admitted they’ve done all these things and you want this jury to believe that you didn’t know what you were doing as sophisticated as you were, that you didn’t have the intent to defraud anybody,’" she added.
Bankman-Fried, who graduated from MIT with a degree in physics and a minor in mathematics before he built his crypto empire, gained a reputation for playing video games while on calls with investors and during TV interviews prior to the implosion of his companies – a distraction that will not be available on the witness stand.
Stoltmann said that Bankman-Fried’s defense team has likely spent a significant amount of time prepping him to testify and that they may look to embrace his personality on the stand as the jury looks on rather than trying to make his testimony seem too polished.
"You can’t coach him too much. Everybody says he’s a charming, charismatic guy in a weird sort of way. But the thing is, it’s going to be hard to scrub out those eccentricities, so maybe you just embrace them," Stoltmann added. "And I can promise you, his defense team has spent more time prepping him than they have preparing cross-examinations for any of the witnesses because, honestly, everything else has been show to this point. The jurors want to hear from Sam Bankman-Fried, and this is obviously crucial."
It is unclear at this time exactly when Bankman-Fried’s trial will conclude and a verdict reached, Judge Kaplan previously told the jury that the defense is expected to conclude its presentation by Nov. 2.
FOX Business’ Breck Dumas contributed to this report.