FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried faced a moment of reckoning as a jury of twelve delivered a verdict of guilty on all seven criminal charges brought against him. However, the question of how long the 31-year-old entrepreneur will spend behind bars now falls into the hands of Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is known for his no-nonsense approach and unwavering commitment to upholding the law.
Judge Kaplan, a seasoned figure in the Southern District of New York, has presided over some of the most high-profile cases in the heart of downtown Manhattan. Known for his straightforward demeanor and intolerance for courtroom theatrics, Kaplan swiftly reprimands witnesses and attorneys who deviate from the core issues of a case. His strict courtroom etiquette extends to the gallery, even prompting him to call out individuals for chewing gum.
During Bankman-Fried’s four days on the stand, it became evident that Judge Kaplan held no patience for the defendant’s demeanor. The MIT graduate, under direct examination, often provided convoluted, repetitive, and contradictory statements, highlighting the challenges he faced in presenting a clear defense.
Bankman-Fried’s testimony occasionally included disclaimers such as, “I’m not a lawyer,” and “I’m not giving a legal interpretation.” This further complicated the proceedings and drew attention to the complexity of the case.
In cross-examination, Bankman-Fried’s responses shifted to terse and evasive one-word replies like “Yup” and “I don’t recall.” The government capitalized on these moments, presenting evidence that either refuted the defendant’s testimony or provided answers to his evasive responses.
Bankman-Fried’s combative attitude toward Assistant U.S. attorney Danielle Sassoon during the trial did not go unnoticed. Legal experts and litigators have noted that this demeanor may have had repercussions in the eyes of the jury and the presiding judge.
Now, as the verdict stands, the fate of Sam Bankman-Fried is in Judge Kaplan’s hands. The coming months will see deliberations on the length of his sentence, raising questions about the future of the prominent figure behind the FTX exchange.