U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan has ruled that prosecutors can mention alleged bribes made by Bankman-Fried, the defendant in a high-profile fraud case. The judge deemed these donations relevant to the fraud charges Bankman-Fried is facing, which involve the alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars in FTX customer deposits. According to Judge Kaplan, evidence of Bankman-Fried’s use of customer funds for political contributions directly relates to the wire fraud scheme, establishing the defendant’s motive and alleged fraudulent intent.
Additionally, the judge approved the prosecution’s request to present evidence that Bankman-Fried attempted to bribe a Chinese official to access frozen funds worth $1 billion. Although no charges have been filed in relation to this incident, the judge considered it relevant to the case as it could shed light on Bankman-Fried’s motives for misappropriating customer funds.
However, in a setback for the defense, Judge Kaplan ruled that Bankman-Fried cannot present evidence of his philanthropic work and charitable donations to the jury, as it may potentially lead to jury confusion. The judge also sided with the prosecution in allowing the introduction of evidence from FTX’s television commercials, dismissing Bankman-Fried’s argument that they should be excluded.
Bankman-Fried initially faced charges related to campaign finance violations, but those charges were dropped following his extradition from the Bahamas. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, which include fraud and conspiracy. The trial is scheduled to commence on October 3, 2023. Prior to FTX’s collapse in November 2022, Bankman-Fried had been a significant donor to Democratic candidates and causes leading up to the 2022 midterm elections.