Sam Bankman-Fried Sees Witnesses Barred from Testifying

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  • The judge in Sam Bankman-Fried’s criminal case has barred any of his initial tranche of witnesses from testifying
  • Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled the witnesses out for a variety of reasons, including questioning the qualifications of one
  • The former FTX CEO can call some again in a different capacity but on strict grounds

Sam Bankman-Fried learnt this week that the initial tranche of witnesses in his high-profile criminal case have been barred from testifying. On Tuesday, Judge Lewis Kaplan granted the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) request to prevent all proposed witnesses from testifying on a variety of grounds, including the parameters of their testimony and their suitability. The former FTX CEO may be able to call some of the witnesses in a different capacity, but only if they meet certain criteria, while his request to have DOJ witnesses was blocked.

Raft of Witnesses Rejected

Bankman-Fried’s defense team had initially sought to call seven individuals, including Lawrence Akka, a British barrister; Thomas Bishop and Joseph Pimbley from consulting firms; Brian Kim, an expert in data analytics and forensics; Bradley Smith, a law professor at Capital University Law School; and Andrew Di Wu, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan.

The DOJ objected to these witnesses for various reasons, citing issues such as a lack of clarity over the intention and scope of their testimony and their suitability for a US criminal trial. Judge Kaplan upheld the DOJ’s objections, expressing reservations about another witness, Dr. Vinella, questioning his qualifications “as an expert in the subject matter of his proffered testimony,” although he noted that this was not why he excluded him.

Witnesses May Still be Called

While this presents a blow to Bankman-Fried, he has been allowed the possibility of calling Bishop or Kim as respondents to DOJ witnesses. These include an FBI agent and Peter Easton, whom the prosecution intends to call regarding the analysis of FTX data.

However, the DOJ still has the right to object to these witnesses up to three days before the relevant defense witness is scheduled. Similar conditions were set for Pimbley and Wu.

Bankman-Fried had also attempted to have a proposed government witness from testifying, but this was denied.