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S.B.F.’s Appeal Chances & The New Crypto Frontiers

Sam Bankman-Fried
S.B.F. shouldn’t be counted out here: As history shows, white-collar crooks tend to have a knack for turning the tables on appeal. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Eriq Gardner
April 1, 2024

When Sam Bankman-Fried heads to FCI Herlong, or whatever Bay Area medium security prison will soon house him, perhaps he’ll think long and hard about how Judge Lewis Kaplan formed an early impression of him as an uncommon thief. Throughout the entire case, right up until he dropped a 25-year prison sentence on the disgraced crypto wunderkind, Kaplan kept explaining his decision-making by drawing comparisons to a bank heist. 

To wit: When S.B.F. wanted to tell the jury that his Anthropic A.I. investment could return hundreds of millions of dollars to FTX, Kaplan scoffed at this proposed silver lining—equating it to a guy who robs the Federal Reserve only to return the money after winning the Powerball. When S.B.F.’s legal team discussed the involvement of FTX attorneys in his past behavior, the judge compared the situation to a bank robber who buys a new residence and then blames his oblivious real estate attorney. And during sentencing, Kaplan again treated Bankman-Fried like John Dillinger, refusing to go easy on him despite assurances that FTX customers would soon be made whole. Said Kaplan: “A thief who takes his loot to Las Vegas and successfully bets the stolen money is not entitled to a discount on the sentence.”