There, 17 pairs of eyes may have shot back a mix of skepticism and, by the end of the day, boredom and perhaps a bit of despair. Some jurors were growing visibly tired of Bankman-Fried’s waffling “I don’t remember” defense after four weeks of trial. A few new sleepyheads drifted off.
Sam Bankman-Fried began his testimony like the brilliant former golden boy from crypto’s better days. He ended the longest, strangest, most torturous day yet of his criminal trial more imperiled than ever before.
The story he gave to GMA was not convincing. His long pauses bled into hardly artful dodges of difficult questions. Sam admitted he felt absolutely terrible that “a lot of people got hurt” by the company’s implosion and he wished he took “like, a lot more responsibility for understanding what the details were, what was going on” at Alameda, rather than leave it to others, like, uhhh, the lawyers.
We’ll start with the courtroom itself. The wood-paneled chamber has three pews reserved for the general public, which is usually composed of reporters. There are at least seven other benches earmarked for in-house reporters, sketch artists, lawyers, friends of the court and family of the defendant, as well as the prosecutors.
As bad as she was, the Googler was worse. Gaddis, who responds to legal requests the search engine giant receives, spent his ever-so-brief testimony saying there existed metadata that (I guess) demonstrated some Google doc whose contents weren’t actually discussed had been received, or worked on, or something, by Bankman-Fried. (Editor’s note: No, I’m not going to try to improve that sentence because it’s perfect.) Then cross-examination demonstrated Gaddis didn’t know a damn thing about metadata, a revelation that threw the bench into disarray.
Ultimately the truth did come out, killing FTX, Alameda, their lenders, investors and customers, and sparking criminal investigations into Caroline and the other members of Sam’s inner circle. She said her house was raided by the FBI before she began cooperating with prosecutors – a contrast to the quiet coder Gary Wang, who volunteered himself to the government barely a week after the companies’ demise. Deputy court clerk Andy Mohan slid Caroline a baby blue tissue box as she tearfully called out to “the people that trusted us,” people she said she “betrayed.”
On a logistical note: Wang’s testimony will conclude Friday. Prosecutors expect to wrap up midway through what will be an abbreviated day. Depending on cross-examinations, we may or may not hear from the next witness, BlockFi’s Zac Prince, later today. Otherwise, he and Elan Dekel, a vice president at a company called Pinecone, are expected to begin testifying next week.
Bankman-Fried and his companies were “building the plane in flight,” Mark Cohen, who anchors the defense, said in his opening statement. He told the jury his client, a “math nerd,” did nothing illegal but perhaps unwise, like never hiring a chief risk officer to watch the health of his “innovative” crypto exchange. And he began casting blame at former Alameda Research CEO Caorline Ellison, Bankman-Fried’s ex-girlfriend and a key witness, saying that the defendant told her to hedge the trading firm’s risk on multiple occasions but she didn’t.
We may not know for weeks whether Sam Bankman-Fried will take the stand at his own trial. He may want the chance to explain himself to the jury, but his lawyers are surely wary of the withering cross-examination such a tactic would invite. No matter: the unconventional former crypto executive has already said – publicly – plenty about what went down in FTX’s final days.