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FTX fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried asks judge for 6.5 or years or less, says public doesn’t know his ‘true’ self



As Sam Bankman-Fried faces the prospect of decades in prison, the disgraced FTX founder is making one last plea for a lenient sentence from a federal judge.

In a filing on Tuesday night, Bankman-Fried’s new team of attorneys made their recommendation to Judge Lewis Kaplan, who oversaw the criminal trial last fall where a jury convicted Bankman-Fried on seven fraud-related counts related to the November 2022 collapse of his crypto empire, FTX.

In the 98-page document, filed alongside a ream of letters in support of Bankman-Fried, the attorneys argued their client should only face 63 to 78 months in prison, a relative slap on the wrist compared to the maximum penalty of 115 years that he faces.

“Sam Bankman-Fried has been described as a ‘sociopath,’ ‘a man with no morals, remorse or empathy,’ who is an ‘an ice-cold manipulator, bully and shameless liar,’” the attorneys wrote in their preliminary statement. “They don’t know the true Sam Bankman-Fried.”

Downfall of the crypto king

The rise and fall of Sam Bankman-Fried, whose FTX exchange once graced Super Bowl commercials and carried a valuation north of $30 billion, captured international attention. The disgraced mogul once oversaw a crypto empire in the Bahamas that attracted top venture capitalists and celebrities, before the walls tumbled down amid a broader crypto collapse in 2022.

Soon after the collapse, ugly details emerged about Bankman-Fried and his companies: Rather than creating a challenger to the global financial system, Bankman-Fried had directed his inner circle to commit massive fraud, stealing customer deposits and using them for their own investments into luxury real estate and startups.

After U.S. authorities extradited Bankman-Fried from the Bahamas in late 2022, the circus around his criminal proceedings began. His trial in October 2023, less than a year after the collapse, saw prosecutors call top FTX executives—several of whom were former close friends of Bankman-Fried’s—as their witnesses. In an emotional high point of the trial, Bankman-Fried’s former girlfriend, and the one-time executive of his trading firm, Caroline Ellison testified that Bankman-Fried directed her to commit crimes.

Hurt by a lackluster performance from his attorneys, Bankman-Fried mustered a weak defense of his actions, taking the stand under a brutal cross-examination from Department of Justice prosecutor Danielle Sassoon. His conviction came soon after, with the jury finding him guilty on all seven charges, including fraud.

Throwing the book?

After his bail was revoked in August for leaking documents to the New York Times in August, Bankman-Fried has been stuck at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he will remain through his sentencing. That date is quickly approaching, with the hearing set for March 28.

The memo filed on Tuesday by Bankman-Fried’s lawyers is a procedural step ahead of the sentencing. The filing was written by Bankman-Fried’s new team of attorneys, including Marc Mukasey, who once represented Donald Trump and is known for his impassioned courtroom appearances.

In the document, the attorneys echo previous arguments employed by Bankman-Fried’s legal team, including that there was no harm to customers, lenders, and investors. They point to an announcement from the FTX bankruptcy estate that it intends to pay back customers in full, although the outcome is more a result of rising crypto prices—the estate will pay back cryptocurrency holdings at their price at the time of the bankruptcy, which hit a low thanks to FTX’s collapse.

The lawyers also argue that Bankman-Fried “presents at times as a paradox,” pointing to his “neurodiversity,” which they say impacts how he is perceived. Bankman-Fried’s attorneys had previously requested to ask questions of potential jurists over whether his ADHD would impact their judgment.

They further argue that Bankman-Fried should not be compared with fellow fraudster Bernie Madoff, who faced a 150-year sentence because Bankman-Fried created an actual business. Instead, he should be treated like Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, who only received 135 months of prison time or the “bond king” Michael Milken.

The lawyers supplemented the memorandum with 29 character statements in support of Bankman-Fried, including from his brother, Gabe, who has kept a low profile through the criminal proceedings due to his association with FTX’s charitable efforts.

“Sam has put his heart and time and energy into his philanthropy, and I believe it has made the world a better place,” Bankman-Fried’s brother wrote.

Prosecutors will file their own sentencing recommendations by March 15.

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