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Bankman-Fried Lawyer: Client Was ‘Worst’ Witness in Unwinnable Case

Sam Bankman-Fried

Could FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried have prevailed at trial?

David Mills, the veteran attorney who helped the cryptocurrency mogul build his defense, doesn’t think so, according to a Tuesday (Dec. 12) Bloomberg News interview.

But he also doesn’t think Bankman-Fried did himself any favors by taking the stand at his fraud trial in October.

“He may be at the very top of the list as the worst person I’ve ever seen do a cross examination,” says Mills, who Bloomberg says is a Stanford Law School colleague of Bankman-Fried’s parents, as well as a close friend.

As PYMNTS wrote, Bankman-Fried’s testimony at trial was a case of him transforming from “the smartest one in the room to the most forgetful.”

“I’m not sure,” and “I can’t recall,” Bankman-Fried repeated over and over during cross examination by U.S. federal prosecutor Danielle Sassoon.

“Mr. Bankman-Fried, just answer the question,” the judge said at other points, including when Bankman-Fried equivocated about whether he had “dinner” or a “meal” with former President Bill Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Bahamas.

His time under cross-examination “ended up undercutting the defendant’s core strategy and narrative: that he was distracted and made honest, good-faith mistakes at the helm of a fast-growing startup,” PYMNTS wrote.

That’s because it gave the prosecution the chance to bring up things like Bankman-Fried’s establishment of a $65 billion line of credit to his own trading creation, Alameda Research, which was backed by investor deposits.

But even if Bankman-Fried had stayed off the stand or performed better, Mills told Bloomberg he doesn’t think it would have kept the jury from convicting him, something that took just hours.

According to Mills, the judge’s pre-trial rulings, coupled with strong testimony from prosecution witnesses, made the case virtually unwinnable for Bankman-Fried.

Judge Lewis Kaplan put limits on the defense before the trial began, blocking them from arguing that Bankman-Fried relied on legal advice at FTX or that the exchange’s terms of service permitted it to access customer deposits.

Mills also said the trial has led to a rift in his friendship with Bankman-Fried’s parents, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried.

“I’m concerned, when you believe in your child’s complete innocence, that you need to blame someone,” he told Bloomberg, “and I am a likely candidate.”

In a statement to the news outlet, Bankman and Fried said, “We love David Mills. He has been a fantastic lawyer for us. He has also been an amazingly steadfast friend and will be grateful to him for being with us in a dark time, forever.”