SBF trial jury sees his messages about regulators

by Jonathan Adams
Cryptocurrency

Jurors also saw a profanity-laced message SBF sent a journalist for crypto news site The Block that made reference to U.S. SEC Chair Gary Gensler

The prosecution in Sam Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial on Wednesday showed jurors a number of profane messages he sent journalists complaining about regulators, challenging the image he cultivated as a backer of crypto currency oversight.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan overruled objections by SBF’s lawyers and allowed the jurors in Manhattan federal court to see a profane message he sent to a reporter for the news website Vox days after FTX failed in November 2022 complaining that regulators “make everything worse.”

Jurors also saw a profanity-laced message SBF sent a journalist for crypto news site The Block on Twitter (formerly X) that made reference to U.S. SEC Chair Gary Gensler.

In the message, the FTX founder proposed that U.S. lawmakers were “dumb” and “about to hand the industry to Gensler on a silver platter.” The Securities and Exchange Commission is considered in crypto currency circles as more hostile to the industry than another federal agency.

In the trial, which began on October 3, SBF stands accused of channelling billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to make investments, donate to U.S. political campaigns and support his hedge fund, Alameda Research. Prosecutors have said his political donations were meant to promote legislation favourable to crypto currency.

The former billionaire has pleaded not guilty to two cases of fraud and five cases of conspiracy. The FTX founder could face decades in prison if convicted.

SBF’s lawyers had sought to bar prosecutors from introducing the messages with the Vox reporter as proof, contending that the defendant sent the “off-the-cuff musings” after the time period at issue in the trial and that the language would bias the jury against him.

In arguing for allowing the jury to see the messages, prosecutor Danielle Sassoon said that they were “highly probative” of his true state of mind at the time, noting that SBF later told the reporter he thought the conversation had been off the record.

Vox eventually published the messages.

SBF wrote that his earlier statements in favour of regulating crypto currency were “just PR,” meaning public relations.

It does not show his true intent at the time when he was engaging with regulators, defence lawyer Christian Everdell said outside the jury’s presence, arguing against permitting the messages as proof.

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