Judge Restricts SBF’s ‘Advice of Counsel’ Defense in Trial Against FTX Charges

Elizabeth Harper

In a significant development leading up to the criminal trial of Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), the judge presiding over the case, Judge Lewis Kaplan, has issued a ruling that restricts SBF’s ability to employ an “advice of counsel” defense strategy in his trial against charges related to his involvement with FTX. This ruling comes as a blow to SBF’s legal team and narrows down his defense options considerably.

The ‘Advice of Counsel’ Defense Curtailed

Judge Kaplan’s 10-page memo, released on the weekend, effectively bars SBF and his legal team from initially utilizing the “advice of counsel” defense strategy in their opening remarks during the trial. This decision was in response to a request made by the prosecution to prevent SBF from introducing this strategy at the outset of the proceedings. Judge Kaplan’s reasoning behind this ruling is centered on the potential for such an argument to prejudice the jury from the start.

In his memo, Judge Kaplan noted, “In light of the foregoing, the risk of confusion and unfair prejudice to the government were the defendant to focus on the presence or involvement of lawyers at or for FTX and Alameda… is palpable.”

Prosecution’s Argument and the ‘Advice of Counsel’ Defense

The prosecution initially moved to bar SBF from employing the “advice of counsel” defense in an August 29 filing. They argued that this defense should not be allowed unless a clear connection to the alleged wrongdoing was established. The prosecution’s concerns stemmed from indications that SBF might shift blame onto the Fenwick & West law firm, which provided legal counsel to FTX during his tenure as CEO.

Under the “advice of counsel” defense, SBF’s attorney would have argued that he did not intend to break any laws because his lawyers at the time assured him that his actions were within legal bounds during his involvement with FTX.

Limited Defense Options for SBF

This recent ruling further constrains SBF’s defense strategy, leaving him with fewer options to mount a defense in his trial. If convicted, SBF faces the prospect of severe consequences, including potentially decades in prison, as he grapples with charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and making illegal political donations.

As SBF’s trial unfolds, the legal community and observers will closely watch the evolving dynamics of this high-profile case, which has significant implications for the cryptocurrency industry and the broader legal landscape.

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