The trial for the founder of the collapsed FTX cryptocurrency exchange has moved more speedily than anticipated.
A jury of nine women and three men began deliberating a verdict on Thursday afternoon in the criminal fraud trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced entrepreneur who has been accused of stealing as much as $10 billion in customer funds from his FTX crypto exchange.
Jurors are deciding whether to convict Mr. Bankman-Fried on seven charges of fraud and conspiracy. If they do not reach a decision by Thursday evening, deliberations will resume on Monday.
All 12 jurors must agree to convict or acquit Mr. Bankman-Fried on each of the seven charges. If even one juror is not in agreement, it would result in a hung jury.
Federal prosecutors have accused Mr. Bankman-Fried of taking billions of dollars in customer deposits from FTX to fund investments, political donations and luxury real estate. The exchange failed last year, leaving many customers unable to recover their money, and turning Mr. Bankman-Fried’s case into a referendum on the excesses of the volatile crypto industry.
Jurors have sat through his trial for nearly a month now, hearing from witnesses including some of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s closest associates, who placed blame squarely on him. On Wednesday, closing arguments were made by a federal prosecutor, Nicolas Roos, and Mr. Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, Mark Cohen. Another prosecutor, Danielle Sassoon, gave a rebuttal to Mr. Cohen’s remarks on Thursday morning before the jury was instructed on the charges.
In his closing statements, Mr. Roos reminded the jury of the evidence and testimony from witnesses who said Mr. Bankman-Fried had directed them to commit crimes. Mr. Cohen sought to portray his client as someone who acted in good faith but made mistakes. He also pointed out that the prosecution’s witnesses, some of whom have pleaded guilty in return for leniency, may have other motives.
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who is presiding over the case, has appeared eager to move the trial forward as quickly as possible. He has held the trial on some Fridays, which the jury usually has off, and has been willing to hold jurors past 4:30 p.m., when they are usually relieved.
Judge Kaplan said on Thursday that the jury could stay until 8 p.m. and offered to provide dinner and transportation if they stayed that late.