Sam Bankman-Fried takes the stand, but without jurors

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It’s week four of Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial, and on Thursday the former FTX CEO took the stand to testify on his own behalf. Bankman-Fried is being charged with seven counts of fraud and money laundering at the Southern District of New York courthouse.

During court, Bankman-Fried wore an oversized gray suit and a purple tie. He arrived at the courthouse around 9:30 a.m., with his hands folded in front of him, nodding at those he made eye contact with. Throughout the morning, Bankman-Fried seemed relaxed, turning around to face the back of the court and occasionally smiling at his lawyers.

This marks the second time Bankman-Fried has spoken out publicly in the courtroom after saying yes on the first day in response to Judge Lewis Kaplan asking if he understood he had the right to testify if he wanted to.

His first words spoken on the stand Thursday were: “Good afternoon.”

But unlike the rest of the trial, Kaplan sent the jury home. He first wanted to review Bankman-Fried’s comments before determining whether that testimony could be shared with jurors. “I haven’t had a hearing of this nature in a long time, if ever,” Kaplan said.

Once on the stand, Bankman-Fried was jittery and quick to respond to the questions his defense lawyer, Mark Cohen, was asking. But when it came time for Danielle Sassoon, assistant U.S. attorney for the SDNY, to cross-examine, he was slower to respond and couldn’t remember many of the facts.

One of the areas Kaplan wanted to hear about was Bankman-Fried relying on legal counsel to draft terms of service and data retention policies, which included using Signal to share internal communication.

Bankman-Fried said the “big picture takeaway” for these policies was that specific data like KYC (know your client) policies, regulatory mandates, compliance and formal accounting required retention. But not elements like drafted faulty balance sheets, which Caroline Ellison testified about weeks earlier.

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