Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), the founder of the defunct FTX exchange, is set to face trial in October, barring any postponement. Amid the fracas, the former exchange CEO has maintained that he isn’t guilty of all these charges leveled against him and will be reportedly bringing expert witnesses to prove his innocence.
According to a Bloomberg report, Sam Bankman-Fried is employing the services of seven different expert witnesses to help bolster his case. These expert witnesses may form part of SBF’s defense, and if so, they will be allegedly paid $1,200 an hour to testify in favor of FTX’s former CEO.
This means that SBF’s defense could be spending up to $8,400 an hour for these expert witnesses, a staggering figure given that high-profile trials like these can drag out for a long time.
This list of expert witnesses released so far includes Lawrence Akka, Thomas Bishop, Brian Kim, Joseph Pimbley, Bradley Smith, Peter Vinella, and Andrew Di Wu.
Expert witnesses are persons with specialized knowledge in a particular field. They are usually called upon in court proceedings to break down complex or technical issues that the Judge and the jury may not be conversant with.
According to the defendant’s notice, SBF’s expert witnesses will give evidence of various issues, including campaign finance laws, the finances of FTX and its sister company, Alameda Research, and the crypto exchange’s software infrastructure.
However, it is surprising that SBF is calling an expert witness to give background information on the US campaign finance laws, considering that the prosecution had dropped the charge of him violating campaign finance rules.
The charge was dropped because it didn’t form part of the US government’s extradition agreement with the Bahamas government, and thus had no legs to stand on. But it seems defending himself against such allegations is important to the FTX founder given he is preparing a defense for it.
In reply to SBF’s notice of his expert witnesses, the government has filed a motion to exclude the testimony of these witnesses. The prosecutors argue that these experts and their accompanying disclosures suffer from an “array of deficiencies” that necessitate their exclusion.
For one, their opinions have no basis as required by the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure. According to the prosecutors, their opinions, among other things, are “irrelevant, unfairly prejudicial, and confusing to the jury.”
They further argue that these experts will offer legal conclusions that “invade” the power of the court and the jury, so the court should exercise its “gatekeeping authority” and preclude their testimonies.”
The Prosecutor’s motion contains extensive arguments on why each of these expert witnesses’ opinions should be excluded. They stated that Professor Smith’s testimony is “irrelevant, confusing, and a waste of time” since SBF’s trial doesn’t include a charge stemming from the defendant’s “illegal campaign finance scheme.”
Meanwhile, they argue that Mr. Vinella’s testimony should be excluded on the grounds of qualifications, relevancy, and admissibility. If rejected, they have the court to grant them a Daubert hearing to evaluate his “qualifications, methodology, and the relevance and reliability of his proposed testimony.
Mr. Vinella seems to be SBF’s primary expert witness as he is set to opine on various topics, including FTX’s operations and how the company took “commercially reasonable steps” to protect customers’ funds despite the lack of regulatory clarity in the US.
SBF currently faces seven counts of financial fraud, including wire fraud on FTX and Alameda customers, securities fraud, and money laundering.
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