FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan federal court on Tuesday to fraud and other charges related to the collapse of his $32-billion crypto empire, with a judge setting an October trial date as both sides prepare to sift through mountains of evidence.
What happens next?
The government will give documents and evidence to Bankman-Fried’s lawyers in a process known as discovery. Prosecutors said on Tuesday that they have hundreds of thousands of documents with more on the way as they continue gathering evidence. Discovery can take months, particularly if disputes arise over what evidence the defense is entitled to see ahead of trial. The documents could include everything from emails to bank statements and internal FTX data.
Is the investigation ongoing?
Yes. Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams has said his office will continue to make announcements as its probe widens. In December, he revealed that Bankman-Fried associates Caroline Ellison and Gary Wang had pleaded guilty to defrauding investors and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Williams has pointedly urged any FTX insiders with information about the company's demise to come forward.
When will the trial happen?
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan set an October 2 trial date, but it is not uncommon for the schedule to be pushed back as fresh legal issues and evidence surface. Pretrial litigation is critically important as both sides press for an advantage over what evidence jurors will see and what legal arguments may be presented to them. Neither side gave any indication on Tuesday that they expect significant delays, but legal experts say similar cases have taken a year or longer to reach juries.
Is Bankman-Fried certain to stand trial?
No. Criminal defendants can change their plea at any time, and their lawyers often negotiate with prosecutors over a possible plea deal. This typically entails a defendant pleading guilty to certain charges in exchange for prosecutors dropping others.
Bankman-Fried, 30, has not given any indication that he intends to strike a plea deal, and prosecutors have not indicated they would offer one. He has apologised to FTX customers, but said he does not believe he is criminally liable.
US probes how $370 million vanished in hack after FTX bankruptcy: Bloomberg NewsThe criminal probe into the stolen assets, launched by the Department of Justice is separate from fraud case against FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried
What happens if Bankman-Fried is convicted?
The ex-mogul faces a maximum of 115 years in prison, but he is unlikely to receive such a sentence even if he is convicted on all counts. Judges have discretion in deciding sentences, and after a verdict, prosecutors and the defense frequently argue over an appropriate penalty. This involves weighing mitigating and aggravating factors or reasons why a defendant deserves a lenient or severe sentence.
What about the FTX bankruptcy case?
FTX declared bankruptcy on November 11 in Delaware. The US-based bankruptcy is still in its early stages and will proceed without Bankman-Fried's direct involvement.
The company's current CEO, John Ray, told members of the US Congress in December that efforts by FTX to recover customers' crypto assets would continue. Bankman-Fried has had no role in the company after he stepped down in November, Ray said.