S.B.F. Is Blaming It All on the Lawyers

Sam Bankman-Fried
Federal prosecutors are determined to prevent any resurrection of the S.B.F. legend. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Eriq Gardner
September 18, 2023

For years, Sam Bankman-Fried carefully cultivated an image as a disheveled prodigy who cared more about using crypto to uplift the poor than enriching himself. Of course, as it turned out, S.B.F. wasn’t just playing video games, giving away his money, and driving a Toyota Corolla, as has been widely reported. He was also spending millions of dollars to hang out with celebrities and fly private, living in a $40 million penthouse and lending himself billions of dollars to acquire luxury properties across the Bahamas.

Now, ahead of a six-week trial beginning Oct. 3, federal prosecutors are determined to prevent any resurrection of the S.B.F. legend. On Friday, they highlighted Bankman-Fried’s “prior efforts to use behavioral eccentricity to his advantage” and sought to limit any references to “effective altruism” during the jury selection process. They also conveyed to Judge Lewis Kaplan that allowing Bankman-Fried to improperly cast himself in a sympathetic light shouldn’t be permitted. 

Naturally, prosecutors are less worried about empaneling jurors who have been exposed to news stories dismantling the mythos of S.B.F., who is currently in a Brooklyn detention center awaiting the legal showdown. Prosecutors expressed to Judge Kaplan that the defense team’s plan to inquire whether prospective jurors can “completely ignore” what they’ve seen in the media is “unnecessarily intrusive.” Hmm. Really?

Bankman-Fried’s legal team undoubtedly needs open-minded jurors whose perspectives have not been shaped by a year’s worth of negative press. Their trial strategy is evident—shifting blame to others for the collapse of FTX. This strategy likely involves pointing fingers at Bankman-Fried’s fellow executives for disregarding his risk management nudges, an especially crucial move given how these former colleagues have now accepted plea deals and may soon testify against him.