The high-profile trial of former FTX CEO Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried kicked off on Oct. 3 with plenty of activity both inside and outside of the cramped Manhattan courtroom.
Journalists, crypto influencers and other gawkers reportedly gathered in a media overflow room to take notes on the day’s events. Here are some of the most colorful observations about the day.
Noticeably leaner, signature haircut gone
The defendant, Bankman-Fried, appeared noticeably leaner, according to multiple reports.
Flanked by five defense lawyers, he was dressed in a navy suit that seemed bigger on him than in previous appearances, and his signature unkempt curly locks were subbed for a shorter hairstyle.
Some of the first court sketches of SBF's new haircut by Jane Rosenberg for Reuters: pic.twitter.com/n0FqW71PWD— Luc Cohen (@cohenluc) October 3, 2023
Unchained Crypto’s Laura Shin noted that Bankman-Fried was noticeably “less jittery than normal.”
“I did not see him shake his leg at all,” she said in an Oct. 3 podcast.
The only time he spoke was to say “yes” to the judge and occasionally look at the jurors. Other times, he conferred with his lawyers or was seen typing and scrolling on his air-gapped laptop.
MY SBF HAIRCUT SKETCH VS COURT GUY pic.twitter.com/rNC4MC2xRK— Tiffany Fong (@TiffanyFong_) October 3, 2023
SBF has spent the past seven weeks or so locked up at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center. When his lawyers unsuccessfully argued for his release, they claimed that he was subsisting on “bread and water” and lacking vegan meal options.
Crypto influencer Tiffany Fong said, “He kind of looks more criminal now.”
Journalists, influencers and skeptics come to “crypto prom”
The first day of the trial was described as feeling like “the first day of school,” according to some journalists in attendance.
“I’ve never seen the courthouse like this,” remarked an unnamed member of the press, according to The Slate.
“While waiting to access the media overflow room, I spotted practically anyone and everyone who’s had something to say about decentralized currency over the last few years,” said The Slates’ Nitish Pahwa.
He described it as a “crypto prom” crammed with a hodgepodge of paid media participants, crypto influencers, obsessives, skeptics and more.
i am standing outside of SDNY for SBF’s trial pic.twitter.com/WDGd8kVqdQ— Tiffany Fong (@TiffanyFong_) October 3, 2023
Cointelegraph reporter Ana Paula Pereira is also in attendance and will give daily updates on the most significant developments throughout the trial.
Jurors get whittled down, and some share sad crypto stories
Judge Lewis B. Kaplan told the burgeoning crowd of potential jurors: “You are to do no research. You are not to read press coverage,” however, he lightened up when it came to questioning the crowd, reported Cointelegraph.
Potential jurors were asked if they had prior knowledge about FTX and Alameda, with one saying they learned about it from The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, according to a partial transcript from Inner City Press.
One juror said they worked with a company that invested in (and lost money on) FTX and Alameda. Another potential juror said:
“I invested in crypto. I lost money.”
One juror shared that he wasn’t sure if he could be unbiased with crypto: “I’ve felt negatively about it since I learned about it.” He was later dismissed from the pool of potential jurors.
Another juror even asked the judge what the potential sentence would be at its worst, noting they would not impose the death sentence, to which the judge answered:
“We’ll get to it in a minute or two, and my answer will have to suffice. Anyone unwilling to accept that punishment is up to the court? No one.”
At the end of the session, Judge Kaplan said, “We now have a sufficient group of qualified jurors, 50.” He added that 18 people will be selected in total, 12 of whom will be jurors with six alternates.
He added that on the next day (Oct. 4), a microphone will be passed around for each juror to speak for a minute. “Then the lawyers will confer, and the final selection will be made,” he concluded.
Scaramucci on potential witness list
An assistant U.S. attorney read out a list of potential witnesses. This included some expected names, such as former company executives Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang, Nishad Singh, Ryne Miller and Constance Wang; family members Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried; and even Anthony Scaramucci.
Several institutions were also listed, including Jane Street Capital, Sequoia Capital, BlockFi, Genesis, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Binance, Nexo, Guarding Against Pandemics (the nonprofit of SBF’s brother) and Voyager Digital.
Six-week trial expected
Judge Kaplan said that the trial was expected to take about six weeks, but he also noted that it could be over in a much shorter time.
However, by the end of the day, he had not succeeded in finalizing the jury. Kaplan predicted that this would be completed by the morning of Oct. 4, after which both sides are expected to give opening arguments totaling around 90 minutes.