Caroline Ellison told prosecutors SBF might not have known about location of FTX customer money
Meanwhile, Sam Bankman-Fried was briefly accused of laughing and scoffing while Ellison was on the stand
Artwork by Crystal Le
Sam Bankman-Fried’s attorneys had their opportunity on Thursday to poke holes in the narrative Caroline Ellison has been spinning. She is the government’s star witness in the disgraced FTX founder’s criminal trial. They aren’t getting too far yet, although it’s still early.
Bankman-Fried’s lead counsel Mark Cohen handled Ellison’s cross examination, taking on lead prosecutor Danielle Sassoon. Cohen made it less than five minutes into his questioning before calling the first sidebar of the day — a disruptive and time-consuming activity senior Judge Lewis Kaplan has requested they keep to a minimum.
Read more from our opinion section: Stop putting Caroline Ellison’s appearance on trial
Cohen’s one win may have been when he successfully got Ellison to admit that she told prosecutors early on in their investigation that Bankman-Fried may have been more in the dark about the location of FTX customer assets than the prosecution has led the jury to believe.
“I recalled saying that…he might not know this was happening,” Ellison said on the stand, referring to what she may have told prosecutors during a December 2022 meeting. “Something like that.”
Cohen was specifically wondering if Ellison had spilled to the government that Bankman-Fried may have been unaware that FTX customer fiat wire transfers were still going to the Alameda-controlled “North Dimension” bank account, even after the exchange made a switch.
Some legacy FTX customers still transferred funds to North Dimension even after exchange operators had created an account under the FTX name, Ellison said.
Day 2 for Caroline
On Wednesday, Sassoon expressed her frustrations with Bankman-Fried and what she called his “intimidating” antics to Kaplan. She accused the defendant of laughing and scoffing while Ellison was on the stand, a claim Cohen vehemently denied.
“Your Honor, this is ridiculous,” Cohen said during the sidebar. “The defendant is attending this trial.”
Kaplan mostly sided with the defense, a rare win for Bankman-Fried’s team, and said he had not seen Bankman-Fried make any inappropriate reactions.
Ellison, former CEO of Alameda Research and Bankman-Fried’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud and conspiracy ahead of the jury trial.
She faces a maximum prison sentence of 110 years, plus potential fines and restitution payments. Ellison is cooperating with prosecutors in the hopes of receiving a more lenient sentence, she told the court Wednesday.
Sassoon spent half of Tuesday and all day Wednesday with Ellison. Cohen told the court Thursday that he expects his cross examination to take most of the day and could spill over into Friday.
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