As FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried took to the stand Thursday wearing a suit and a tie that social media commentators debated was either lavender or pink, the jury got a surprise.

“I’m sending you home, you will be getting the case to decide in the first few days of next week,” said U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, according to a live blog of the trial from court reporting organization Inner City Press. 

Kaplan is presiding over the criminal trial of Bankman-Fried, who faces charges including wire fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in relation to the operation of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

The trial resumed today after a six-day pause. The prosecution rested their case in the morning with their final witness, FBI agent Mark Triano. He testified that Bankman-Fried had the “auto-delete” function enabled for 288 groups on messaging app Signal. 

The defense then opened their case with Krystal Rolle, an attorney from the Bahamas who represented Bankman-Fried. That was by followed by financial services consultant Joseph Pimbley.

Most of the defense’s case rests on testimony from Bankman-Fried, which is expected to take at least four hours relative to the 15-minute testimonies of the prior defense witnesses. The defense had also aimed to draw on the testimonies of two FBI agents, with the intention of showing inconsistent statements from former FTX insiders, but this motion was denied.

Test run

The likelihood of Bankman-Fried testifying drew crowds to the courthouse, all vying for a seat in either the courtroom or overflow rooms. But in a rare move by Kaplan, Bankman-Fried’s testimony got a test run without the presence of the jury, so the judge can decide what is and isn’t admissible in the testimony. 

Asked by the prosecution what amounts to best practice on objections in that scenario, Kaplan said: “I haven’t had a hearing like this in some time. Go ahead.” 

The move comes as the defense filed a letter late on Wednesday outlining some of their arguments relating to the presence of counsel. The prosecution opposed the motion, which has resulted in Kaplan wanting to hear the testimony prior to the jury.

Kaplan previously ordered that the defense cannot use an “advice-of-counsel” defense strategy in their opening statements. However, they can raise some arguments related to presence of counsel with court approval.

Foggy memory

The defense questioned Bankman-Fried on a number of topics. These ranged from his use of auto-delete on messaging platforms, to his venture investments, to the setup of hedge fund North Dimension Inc., one of around 130 companies making up his former business empire. A subsidiary of FTX-sister company Alameda Research, North Dimension is believed to have been a key component in the misappropriation of customer funds.

A common theme in Bankman-Fried’s responses was to place the blame on FTX’s former general counsel Ryne Miller and Dan Friedberg in relation to his decision making. 

“Did you take comfort in that the lawyers structured it?” asked the defense, in regards to the structuring of venture investments. “Yes,” Bankman-Fried said.

During questioning, Bankman-Fried confirmed he was aware that Friedberg was previously involved in a “high level scandal.” Amid the cross-examination, the prosecution also pushed Bankman-Fried on whether lawyers had specifically directed Bankman-Fried to use auto-delete on the messaging app Signal.

“Did any lawyer tell you you could delete your messages with Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang and Nishad Singh?” the prosecution asked.

“Not specifically,” Bankman-Fried said.

Bankman-Fried also leaned heavily on not being able to recall key facts related to the operation of FTX and Alameda Research during the cross-examination. That was in stark contrast to the media blitz made by Bankman-Fried following the collapse of FTX and prior to his criminal charges.

“As CEO of Alameda you didn’t know why it moved deposits to North Dimension?” the prosecution asked. “No,” Bankman-Fried said.

Kaplan told the legal teams that he will rule on what the jury is allowed to hear tomorrow morning.