Sam Bankman-Fried’s political donations can be surfaced in trial, rules judge

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Sam Bankman-Fried’s political donations can be surfaced in trial, rules judge


Prosecutors from the United States Department of Justice will be allowed to surface the details of Sam Bankman-Fried’s political donations as the evidence is directly relevant to his fraud charges, ruled U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan.

The decision was part of a series of rulings made by Kaplan in a 16-page pretrial order on Sept. 26, where he cleared up which evidence would be admissible in court during the FTX founders’ fraud trial, currently scheduled to begin on Oct. 3.

Federal prosecutors initially charged Bankman-Fried with conspiring to break United States campaign finance laws, as well as seven other fraud and conspiracy charges — however, later dropped the charges as part of an extradition agreement with the Bahamas.

“Evidence that the defendant spent FTX customer funds on political contributions is direct evidence of the wire fraud scheme because it is relevant to establishing the defendant’s motive and allegedly fraudulent intent.”

In addition to allowing discussion of Bankman-Fried’s campaign donations, Kaplan also approved the prosecution’s motion to bring forward evidence that details Bankman-Fried’s alleged role in the creation of the FTX Token (FTT), and the ways in which he allegedly directed Alameda Research and its then-CEO Caroline Ellison to manipulate the price of the token.

Judge Kaplan’s ruling on Bankman-Fried’s political donation evidence. Source: CourtListener

“The alleged manipulation of the cryptocurrency tokens, which resulted in an alleged manipulation of Alameda’s balance sheet, was an act ‘done in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy’ and therefore is considered ‘part of the very act charged,’” wrote Kaplan.

“Moreover, defendant’s alleged directive to Ms. Ellison to manipulate the price of FTT is direct evidence of their “relationship of mutual trust.” The probative value of this evidence outweighs any risk of unfair prejudice. It is admissible,” Kaplan concluded.

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While Kaplan approved many submissions of evidence for the DOJ, he also approved Bankman-Fried’s lawyers to question government witnesses about their recreational drug use, as long as they provided prior notice to the court.

Government witnesses include Caroline Ellison, former FTX engineer Nishad Singh and FTX co-founder Gary Wang.

Kaplan also denied the DoJ’s motions to block the defense from cross-examining witnesses on certain “privileged” issues. Additionally, he ruled that Bankman-Fried would not be able to discuss any details of his pre-trial detention, family background, wealth, or age before a jury.

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