Lawyers for fallen crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried are seeking expanded ability to interrogate upcoming prosecution witnesses in his high-profile fraud trial.
The request comes after two weeks of incriminating testimony from former FTX insiders, which damaged SBF’s credibility before jurors. His defense team argues restrictions on cross-examining government witnesses prevent them from presenting their full case theory.
In a new filing, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers asked the judge for more leeway in questioning future witnesses to “flesh out” alternative perspectives. They also want to restrict prosecutors relying on lay witnesses to provide expert analysis.
The defense motion follows former FTX executives like Caroline Ellison admitting Bankman-Fried directed them to mislead investors and customers about the true health of his companies. Ellison emotionally confessed to feeling relief at no longer having to “lie” under SBF’s orders.
According to ex-prosecutor Daniel Silva, the defense likely aims to curb further harm to Bankman-Fried’s reputation as the trial continues. “They don’t want more victims,” Silva said. “Victim testimony makes the jury more sympathetic to the government.”
SBF’s team is also challenging the prosecution’s premise that FTX perpetrated fraud regardless of its own terms of service. His lawyers contend adhering to contractual terms provides a defense against fraud claims.
But prosecutors firmly dismissed this argument as legally mistaken. They reiterated evidence showing Bankman-Fried deceived customers about how he handled their funds, breaching trust despite any formal contracts.
Prosecutors say they did not actually object to the defense’s witness questioning itself so far. But they do oppose attempts to paint customers as negligent in dealing with FTX.
According to Silva, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers face steep odds of securing his acquittal. To succeed, SBF must rebut all charges and theories. But prosecutors only need to conclusively prove one to win a conviction.
The filings come as FTX customers are slated to testify this week about alleged deception over use of their crypto assets. The defense seeks to temper the emotional impact through restricted cross-examination.
SBF’s team also wants leeway to probe whether upcoming witnesses grasp complex concepts like blockchain wallets and smart contracts. This could cast doubt on claims they were misled if found ignorant of crypto basics.
While not blocking questioning outright, prosecutors don’t want the defense shaping witness narratives to favor Bankman-Fried. Granting total latitude risks muddying factual accounts that aid the prosecution’s case.
But SBF’s lawyers insist limiting cross-examination deprives them of fully contesting the prosecution’s “conception” of events. They contend questioning witnesses on alternative theories is critical for due process rights.
The outcome of this legal tussle could shape the remainder of the landmark crypto trial. More targeted interrogation may deflate the impact of forthcoming witnesses. However, aggressive questioning risks alienating jurors sympathetic toward victims.
For now, prosecutors maintain they have not obstructed the defense’s ability to mount its own case through witness cross-examination so far. But they will not tolerate attempts to confuse issues or imply customers somehow deserved to be deceived.
Disclaimer: Please note that the viewpoints and perspectives expressed by the author, as well as any individuals referenced in this article, are intended solely for informational purposes. They should not be construed as financial or investment advice. It’s important to acknowledge that investing in or trading cryptoassets carries inherent financial risks.