DOJ's Proposed 50-Year Sentence for Sam Bankman-Fried 'Disturbing,' FTX Founder's Lawyers Say

Bankman-Fried's defense team attacked prosecutors' lengthy prison term recommendation in a new letter Tuesday.

AccessTimeIconMar 20, 2024 at 1:12 a.m. UTC
Updated Mar 20, 2024 at 1:21 a.m. UTC

Sam Bankman-Fried's defense team pushed back against what it called the "disturbing" sentencing memorandum filed by the Department of Justice last week in a new letter, saying the DOJ was making the FTX founder out to be someone he was not.

"With marked hostility, the memorandum distorts reality to support its precious 'loss' narrative and casts Sam as a depraved super-villain; it attributes to him dark and megalomaniacal motives that fly in the face of the record; it makes apocalyptic prophecies of recidivism; and it adopts a medieval view of punishment to reach what amounts to a death-in-prison sentencing recommendation," Tuesday's filing said. "That is not justice."

On Friday, prosecutors urged District Judge Lewis Kaplan to impose a sentence of 40 to 50 years, arguing that Bankman-Fried had been greedy and his efforts to resolve FTX's bankruptcy didn't help. As supporting evidence, they included various word documents he authored, victim impact statements from FTX customers and other documents.

The defense had previously argued that the former FTX CEO should spend no more than 6.5 years in prison, after his conviction last November on fraud and conspiracy charges.

Bankman-Fried tried to help the bankruptcy estate, Tuesday's filing said, but he was "rebuffed" by the bankruptcy managers.

As evidence, the defense included additional documents Bankman-Fried wrote, including what appear to be possible draft public statements he might make about how FTX wound up in bankruptcy.

The defense also said Bankman-Fried poses no risk of recidivism.

Another exhibit, meant to demonstrate Bankman-Fried's earnest efforts to bring the exchange out of bankruptcy, includes a message he sent to former FTX General Counsel Ryne Miller. The DOJ had previously used this message as evidence in a successful bid to revoke Bankman-Fried's bond for witness tampering.

"At age 32, the government wants to break Sam Bankman-Fried. They ignore completely his condition and vulnerabilities. Instead, they urge, menacingly, that the sentence imposed must 'disable' him even from 'being in a position' where he theoretically 'could' perpetrate a fraud," the filing said. "That is a horrifying interpretation of specific deterrence."

Bankman-Fried will be sentenced on March 28.

Edited by Kevin Reynolds.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.