Sam Bankman-Fried accuses FTX lawyers in surprise judge-only filing

Sam Bankman-Fried hinted at his potential “blame the lawyers” defense strategy as he took the stand without the jury present Thursday afternoon.

The 31-year-old's much-anticipated witness statement took a U-turn as Judge Lewis Kaplan took the rare step of sending jurors home after lunch so the judge could hear parts of the evidence in dispute.

Mr. Bankman-Fried's admissible evidence will begin Friday morning in a federal court in Manhattan.

But before that began, he was asked by Judge Kaplan about FTX's use of automatic message deletion in encrypted apps like Signal, payments to hedge fund Alameda Research and how the loans between the two companies were structured.

Prosecutors accused Mr. Bankman-Fried of stealing billions in client investments in the now-defunct crypto exchange FTX to prop up his failed hedge fund Alameda Research, invest in high-end real estate, fund sponsorships and make political contributions.

On Thursday, he told the judge that he had only “exhausted” FTX's terms of service that defined the loans between FTX and Alameda.

He said it was FTX's in-house lawyers who decided how the loans would be structured and that Alameda's general counsel, Dan Friedberg, was responsible for maintaining the documents.

Dressed in a gray suit and purple tie, Mr. Bankman-Fried gave confident answers to some questions, but elsewhere his answers were vague and meandering.

Mr Bankman-Fried repeatedly replied “I don't remember”.

Sam Bankman-Fried's testimony will continue Friday before the grand jury

(REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg)

Mr. Bankman-Fried took the position after hearing weeks of damning testimony from former FTX executives detailing how it allegedly oversaw the systematic siphoning of billions of dollars of client funds from the crypto exchange.

The much-anticipated SBF testimony attracted a number of crypto influencers and high-profile figures from the wider tech world.

Ben McKenzie, the actor-turned-investigative journalist, was in attendance, along with Jacob Silverman, his co-author on Easy Money: Cryptocurrency, Casino Capitalism and the Golden Age of Fraud.

Several overflow rooms were packed to hear Mr. Bankman-Fried testify.

After the prosecution rested its case earlier Thursday, Mr. Bankman-Fried's lawyers called two witnesses to testify.

Krystal Rolle, a Bahamas-based attorney who represented SBF after the collapse of FTX, and financial risk assessment expert Joseph Pimbley.

As the cross-examination of the witness continued through the morning, Judge Lewis Kaplan made no attempt to hide his exasperation at the time it was taking.

Sam Bankman-Fried took the stand without a jury present Thursday

(Associated Press)

In response to lengthy cross-examination of Mr Pimbley, the 78-year-old judge joked that when asked to count how much smoked fish had been sold at his father's deli, he did not have to count the pastrami.

Earlier, when defense attorney Christian Everdell repeatedly asked the prosecution's final witness Mark Troiano to read details from a chart before the court, Judge Kaplan joked that he should ask who Johnny Podres was.

“He was a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers,” Judge Kaplan explained. Podres won four World Series titles by the time the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958.

Mr Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty to seven counts of fraud and money laundering. If convicted, he faces up to 110 years in prison.