The legal defense head, David Mills, representing Sam Bankman-Fried in the FTX fraud trial, has openly expressed frustration and disappointment, labeling SBF as the most challenging witness he has encountered.
Mills has acknowledged that the odds of winning the trial were stacked against the former CEO, implying that the legal challenges and complexities surrounding the case made it exceptionally difficult for the defense to secure a favorable outcome.
SBF Lawyer Reconsidering Involvement in Criminal Law
According to Mills, Bankman-Fried deviated from his lawyers’ planned strategy during his trial. Mills, a colleague from Stanford Law School and a close friend of Bankman-Fried’s parents, expressed that SBF’s performance during cross-examination was notably subpar.
Despite the perceived shortcomings in Bankman-Fried’s handling of the cross-examination, Mills believes that even an improved performance would not have altered the trial’s outcome. The jury ultimately found the former exec guilty of embezzling billions of dollars from FTX customers within a matter of hours.
Mills attributes the challenging nature of the case to pre-trial rulings by the judge and compelling testimony from prosecution witnesses, making the defense’s task nearly impossible.
The emotional toll of the trial and its significant implications for his close friends, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, has led Mills to reconsider his future involvement in criminal law.
He expressed hesitancy about becoming deeply emotionally involved in such cases in the future. He also stated that he would not be involved in any appeal by the FTX co-founder, stating that he wouldn’t represent him in that capacity.
SBF’s Lawyer Reflects on Trial Challenges
Mills initially became involved in Bankman-Fried’s defense out of friendship, assisting without charging fees. However, he acknowledges significant challenges and an uphill battle faced by the decision to join the defense in the FTX fraud trial.
The trial was characterized by the judge’s restrictions on the defense’s arguments and the presence of influential prosecution witnesses, such as Caroline Ellison, CEO of Alameda, Gary Wang, co-founder of FTX, and Nishad Singh, FTX’s engineering chief. These witnesses testified against Bankman-Fried, according to his statement.
Mills also reflected on the difficulty of winning a case when multiple founders testify against the accused, even if their testimony is challenged.
He suggests that a more effective defense strategy would have involved admitting to the allegations and framing them as part of a good-faith effort to save FTX. However, he notes that Bankman-Fried’s recollection and approach differed, making it challenging to present a compelling narrative to the jury.
As the trial progressed, Bankman-Fried’s decision to testify led to further challenges, with Mills describing the cross-examination as a “death by a thousand cuts” as the prosecutor presented damning statements and inconsistencies. Mills eventually reached a point where he decided he had enough, and he wasn’t present when the jury delivered its swift verdict against Bankman-Fried.