SBF ‘did his best,’ defense ends trial closing remarks on emotional note

The government failed to prove “criminal intent,” in Sam Bankman-Fried trial, the defense claims


Artwork by Crystal Le


The defense began making their final plea to the jury Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan as Sam Bankman-Fried’s criminal trial nears its end. 

“The government has tried to turn Sam into some kind of villain, some kind of monster,” lead defense attorney Mark Cohen began during closing arguments Wednesday. 

One of the few areas of agreement between both prosecution and defense appears to be that witnesses have been inconsistent. As might be expected, they subsequently disagree on which side is being dishonest. 

“The government’s core case” is based entirely on “witness testimony that is not consistent,” Cohen argued. 

The defense added a new point to their argument Wednesday by opting to note that the government’s core group of witnesses — Gary Wang, Adam Yedidia, Can Sun, Caroline Ellion and Nishad Singh — were among Bankman-Fried’s closest friends. 

“[But,] every movie needs a villain,” Cohen said.

Cohen took issue with the way Bankman-Fried’s appearance was mentioned throughout the case — shown via both photo exhibits and testimony — and said that “Sam [Bankman-Fried’s] appearance has nothing to do with how FTX worked.”

During his testimony, Bankman-Fried admitted that he wore shirts and a t-shirt “because he found them comfortable” and chose not to receive frequent haircuts because “I was kind of busy and lazy.” Bankman-Fried’s testimony did, however, contradict with testimony from his ex-colleague and ex-girlfriend, Caroline Ellison.

Bankman-Fried’s parents came in for the defense’s closing, only missing the first few minutes. By the end of Bankman-Fried’s lawyers statements, it was obvious emotions were running high. Sam was blinking quickly and looking in the direction of his parents while Cohen commented that “this has been an extraordinary journey”

“Sam did his best,” he said. Bankman-Fried built two successful companies and made mistakes. His parents approached him at the end, they all smiled and he seemed to side hug his attorney.

Cohen began his presentation after the prosecution took the podium for a little over two and a half hours Wednesday morning. If Bankman-Fried’s team can’t finish closing arguments, today the government’s rebuttal and charge instructions will be delayed until Thursday. 

In his closing statements for the prosecution, Nicolas Roos claimed that Bankman-fried “lied” to the jury, and reiterated the allegation that Bankman-Fried chose to commit fraud.

Updated Nov. 2, 2023 at 1:40 pm ET: Added quote from Cohen, context throughout.

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