Law professor David Mills, who defended FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried in his high-profile crypto fraud trial earlier this year, has claimed that his friendship with the disgraced former CEO’s parents may not survive the case.
He has also suggested that Bankman-Fried, who was found guilty of seven fraud and conspiracy charges in November, may be “at the very top of the list as the worst person I’ve ever seen do a cross-examination.”
As reported by Bloomberg, Mills, out of loyalty to the FTX chief’s parents, agreed to fight Bankman-Fried’s corner in December 2022. He also told them that he would “see this through for you and do my best.”
However, the legal veteran claimed that he believed the case to be virtually unwinnable from the get-go. He pointed specifically to pre-trial rulings by US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, and the fact that Bankman-Fried would be up against three strong prosecution witnesses, namely Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, FTX co-founder Gary Wang, and the firm’s engineering chief Nishad Singh.
“I thought it was almost impossible to win a case when three or four founders are all saying you did it,” Mills said (via Bloomberg). “Even if they’re all lying through their teeth, it’s really, really hard to win a case like that.”
According to Mills, the smart tactic would have been to admit to everything the prosecution was saying and try to frame it as a “good-faith” effort to save the company.
However, “That’s not how Sam remembers things,” he said. He summed up the doomed defense efforts by saying, “You got five people who say one thing, one person says another thing. Well, you’ve got no shot—zero.”
SBF lawyer is rethinking his future
Mills says that the high stakes involved in the case and the close relationship between himself and Bankman-Fried’s parents have caused him to rethink his future in criminal law.
Speaking about his reasons for taking the case, Mills said, “It was out of friendship, pure unadulterated friendship.“
“Well, that’s not true – 88% friendship, 12% ‘I love criminal law,’” he added.
However, now that their son has been found guilty and could be facing more than 100 years in prison, Mills believes that he could be the focus of any ill will resulting from the trial.
“I’m concerned, when you believe in your child’s complete innocence, that you need to blame someone and I am a likely candidate,” he said.
“I’m not going to get myself emotionally involved on a very deep personal level in a case like this again. I’m just not going to do it.”