The jury in the Sam Bankman-Fried fraud and money laundering trial took about four hours to decide its verdict.
Any lawyer will tell you that when a jury comes back that quickly — especially in a trial as high-profile and important as this one — it’s almost always bad news for the defense. So, to say things looked bad for Bankman-Fried given the jurors’ near-instant decision is something of an understatement.
Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule.
If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit
O.J. Simpson was tried for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson in the state of California in 1995. Over the course of an eight-month trial — far longer than the Bankman-Fried’s trial — the state of California presented its evidence against Simpson, and his defense team put up a valiant fight thanks to some of the best-paid lawyers money could buy.
His attorney, one of the most famous in American history, Johnny Cochran, declared, after Simpson half-heartedly attempted to put on a glove, “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.”
The judge in the trial, Lance Ito, made a circus of the affair, angling for a television show post-trial.
Television actors and models took the stand to either accuse or defend Simpson.
Shockingly, on October 3, 1995, after only four hours of deliberation, the jury declared that Simpson was not guilty on all counts.
This moment altered court reporting forever.
Not only had one of the most famous American athletes in history had his court case televised to the entire world for almost a year, but after almost no time at all — usually a surefire loss for the defense — the jury decided that the prosecution had presented a terrible case.
A very expensive and embarrassing defeat for the state of California.
Bankman-Fried is a fraud
Of course, while there are always exceptions to the rule, by definition (they are, after all, exceptions) they don’t happen very often.
Unfortunately for Sam, the Southern District of New York didn’t make the same kind of mistakes that the state of California made in 1995. The trial was efficient.
Judge Kaplan clearly didn’t want or care about any possible future television show, witnesses taking the stand weren’t looking for their next gig, and there were no once-in-a-lifetime moments from the all-star defense team.
In fact, there was no all-star defense team whatsoever.
After a month of testimony from numerous individuals who worked directly with Bankman-Fried, a few experts, and thousands of texts, tweets, and documents entered into evidence, the jury had no trouble whatsoever declaring that Bankman-Fried was guilty.
“A quick and complete verdict was expected, based on the evidence presented at trial, and the utter lack of exculpatory evidence — or even argument — by the defense,” said a former securities fraud prosecutor in New York.
They added, “Anything else would have been a miscarriage of justice — Bankman-Fried was obviously guilty of the charges, and the whole world could see it. The jury could, too.”
Trial of the decade
For what will likely go down as one of the most important trials in the last decade there were few spectacles to behold and almost no surprises.
As stated in previous Protos reporting, Bankman-Fried taking the stand was “less ‘nuclear’ and more ‘large forest fire.’” There were no witty one-liners from either legal team and Judge Kaplan came across as a good-humored old man who wanted the trial to be over with as soon as possible — for his sake and that of the jurors.
Everything and everyone involved in the trial — including the journalists who were showing up to wait for limited seating in the courtroom — came across as nothing less than highly professional. The reporting from Protos, CoinDesk, The Verge, and The Ringer, along with coverage from a slew of citizen journalists, was beautifully done, with different perspectives from different reporters filling in every last detail from the courtroom every day.
And now it’s over.
Bankman-Fried now awaiting his sentence
The public seems to be more than happy with the idea that Bankman-Fried is facing over 100 years of prison time due to being guilty on all of the seven counts he was charged with. But it’s important to temper expectations: in reality, there’s not much chance that Bankman-Fried gets more than a couple of decades behind bars.
“He’s going to have sentencing guideline enhancements up for the amount of money and for lying on the stand, probably,” said the former securities fraud prosecutor. “Thirty is a lot of years though.”
So, Bankman-Fried likely won’t be spending the entirety of the rest of his life in prison. But he will spend his best days in a federal penitentiary, remembering the two years when he had immense wealth and spent it on naming arenas and buying mansions in The Bahamas, offering $20 million bonuses to his ex-girlfriend and friends, donating to politicians, and paying influencers to be in commercials.
The rest of us will move on to wondering what will be the next big news story, and which sociopathic narcissistic billionaire will falter under the weight of their own ego.