Bankman-Fried Gears Up ‘Lawyers Made Me Do It’ Defense Strategy 

Sam Bankman-Fried is reportedly subsisting on “bread and water” in prison, and the alleged vegan fraudster’s legal defense might not have much more meat to it. 

A new court filing submitted Wednesday (Aug. 23) by the accused crypto criminal’s legal team at Cohen & Gresser reveals that the 31-year-old former FTX founder is gearing up to potentially take the millennial route for his October trial. 

That is, he is planning to avoid any accountability himself by placing the blame elsewhere — namely on FTX’s one-time legal counsel made up of lawyers from the storied Silicon Valley firm Fenwick & West. 

“The defense intends to elicit evidence that Mr. Bankman-Fried was aware that Fenwick lawyers as well as in-house counsel for FTX, including Dan Friedberg, Can Sun, Ryne Miller, and others, were involved in reviewing and approving decisions related to these matters and others, which gave him assurance that he was acting in good faith,” reads the order submitted to the court. 

Bankman-Fried’s defense team has compelled the government to produce various records from Fenwick & West showing that the firm provided legal advice to the crown jewels of Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire, FTX and Alameda, on numerous topics that are directly related to the criminal conduct alleged in Bankman-Fried’s indictment. 

As a result of this counsel, Bankman-Fried is preparing to claim that he was acting in good faith and did not undertake his crimes with intent. 

A representative from Fenwick & West did not immediately reply to PYMNTS’ request for comment. 

Read alsoA Crypto Crime Chronicled: Prosecutors Lay Out Case Against Bankman-Fried

Biting the Hand That Feeds

The topics and actions under contention include FTX’s data retention policies, which included the use of auto-delete policies and encrypted messaging apps; the formation and incorporation of the North Dimension entities, and the banking relationship between Silvergate Bank and Alameda, North Dimension and FTX; the substantial loans given to the founders and other executives of FTX and Alameda; intercompany agreements between FTX and Alameda, including the payment agent agreement; and FTX customer agreements, including the FTX terms of service. 

“Mr. Bankman-Fried’s awareness that counsel was involved in the matters listed above and others is relevant to rebut the Government’s claim that Mr. Bankman-Fried acted with criminal intent to defraud,” stated the 31-year-old’s defense team. 

Unless Bankman-Fried plans to plead guilty, observers believe he has few other defense options to pick from. 

Proving that Bankman-Fried knowingly acted illegally is a necessary element for many of the criminal charges brought against him by the DOJ.

Other top executives at FTX and Alameda, presumably all privy to the same counsel as Bankman-Fried, have themselves pleaded guilty to the criminal charges brought against them by the U.S. government. 

‘They Only Provide Flesh’

Bankman-Fried’s $250 million bail was revoked earlier this month (Aug. 11), and the man accused of orchestrating one of the biggest financial crimes in U.S. history now resides behind bars in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York. 

His lawyers have complained that his medication needs, including a four-times-daily 10mg dose of Adderall and an Emsam patch, are not being fulfilled, nor are his requests for vegan meals. 

“They only provide flesh,” Bankman-Fried’s lawyer told a judge Tuesday (Aug. 22). “Because he is following his principles, he is only eating bread and water, and sometimes peanut butter.”

His defense team has claimed that the government’s treatment of their client raises “serious Sixth Amendment issues” around his right to prepare for trial. 

In response, the judge overseeing the case is allowing Bankman-Fried access to discovery materials in a courthouse cellblock as long as prosecutors and U.S. Marshals are given 48 hours’ notice. 

On Tuesday, Bankman-Fried pleaded “not guilty” to campaign finance charges. 

His criminal trial is scheduled for October.