Sam Bankman-Fried judge cracks jokes, loses patience with defense at FTX trial

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sam Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial has highlighted dense testimony about laptop code, cryptocurrency and company finance, but U.S. District Choose Lewis Kaplan’s dry sense of humor has supplied the occasional minute of levity.

Kaplan, a senior choose in Manhattan federal court, has also regularly scolded the 31-12 months-aged previous billionaire’s defense lawyers for asking repetitive queries, once accusing them exterior the jury’s presence of making an attempt to “set a history for the longest trial.”

The trial, in which Bankman-Fried is in search of to defend himself from fees of thieving billions of pounds from consumers of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange, is significantly from the very first large-profile issue the 78-calendar year-previous Bill Clinton appointee has overseen not too long ago.

Previously this 12 months, Kaplan oversaw a civil demo in which a jury identified Donald Trump had sexually abused and defamed the writer E. Jean Carroll and ordered him to shell out her $5 million. Final calendar year, he presided more than a civil trial in which the actor Kevin Spacey defeated a sexual abuse claim.

Bankman-Fried has pleaded not responsible to two counts of fraud and 5 of conspiracy.

Even though acknowledged for his no-nonsense demeanor in the courtroom, Kaplan – a Harvard Regulation School graduate born in the New York Town borough of Staten Island – has even so peppered Bankman-Fried’s trial proceedings with witty comebacks and the occasional self-deprecating quip.

When a person possible juror claimed they did not fully grasp how cryptocurrency works, Kaplan mentioned, “You in all probability have a great deal of firm in this courtroom.” When a different told him they had slight hearing decline, Kaplan claimed, “You are not the only just one here with slight listening to decline, at my age.”

After testimony was underway, just after prosecutors confirmed jurors an FTX tv ad in which the star football quarterback Tom Brady named FTX the “safest and least difficult way to buy and sell crypto,” Kaplan deadpanned: “Just to make positive we’re all full, who is Tom Brady?”

The jury will ultimately make a decision the problem of Bankman-Fried’s guilt or innocence, but Kaplan has final say above the types of arguments and strains of questioning the legal professionals may well go after. The choose would in the long run sentence Bankman-Fried should he be convicted.

Quite a few times during the 1st 3 days of testimony, Kaplan urged protection lawyers to go additional quickly as they requested prosecution witnesses queries he deemed repetitive.

On Thursday, following protection law firm David Lisner requested prosecution witness Matt Huang – who operates a undertaking funds company that misplaced $278 million on FTX – various instances about his choice to make investments in FTX regardless of its deficiency of a board of directors, Kaplan requested attorneys for both equally sides to tactic the bench.

“You have been about this now 6 methods to Sunday, and you bought your solution,” Kaplan stated, outdoors the jury’s earshot. “The objective here is not to set a history for the longest demo.”

Ahead of the trial began, Kaplan issued several essential rulings from the defense, which include excluding some of their proposed pro witnesses and barring them from generating sure arguments at trial.

But possibly none of individuals choices were additional consequential than his revocation of Bankman-Fried’s bail on Aug. 11, soon after acquiring he probable tampered with witnesses at the very least 2 times – like by sharing his previous colleague and ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison’s private writings with a reporter.

“He has currently – devoid of violating any other bail affliction help you save that he not commit a different criminal offense – gone up to the line about and more than once again,” Kaplan reported in describing his determination to jail Bankman-Fried.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York modifying by Amy Stevens and Lisa Shumaker)