SBF asks for 5-year prison sentence, calls 100-year recommendation “grotesque”

Enlarge / Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried arrives for a bail hearing at US District Court on August 11, 2023, in New York City.

Getty Images | Michael Santiago

Convicted FTX fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried pleaded for a lenient prison sentence in a court filing yesterday, saying that he isn’t motivated by greed and “is already being punished.”

Bankman-Fried requested a sentence of 63 to 78 months, or 5.25 to 6.5 years. Because of “Sam’s charitable works and demonstrated commitment to others, a sentence that returns Sam promptly to a productive role in society would be sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the purposes of sentencing,” the court filing said.

Bankman-Fried’s filing also said that he maintains his innocence and intends to appeal his convictions.

A presentence investigation report (PSR) prepared by a probation officer recommended that Bankman-Fried be sentenced to 100 years in prison, according to the filing. “That recommendation is grotesque,” SBF’s filing said, arguing that it is based on an erroneously calculated loss of $10 billion.

The $10 billion loss asserted in the PSR is “illusory” because the “victims are poised to recover—were always poised to recover—a hundred cents on the dollar” in bankruptcy proceedings, SBF’s filing said. The filing urged the court to “reject the PSR’s barbaric proposal” of 100 years, saying that such sentences should only be for “heinous conduct” like terrorism and child sexual abuse.

The founder and ex-CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, Bankman-Fried was convicted on seven charges with a combined maximum sentence of 110 years after a monthlong trial in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. The charges included wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, commodities fraud, and money laundering.

US government prosecutors are required to make a sentencing recommendation by March 15, and US District Judge Lewis Kaplan is scheduled to issue a sentence on March 28.

“Sam was not predatory”

Kaplan said before the trial that SBF “could be looking at a very long sentence” if convicted. After the conviction, law professors were quoted as saying that Bankman-Fried’s sentence was likely to be at least 20 or 25 years and conceivably as much as 50 years. Good behavior could get him out of prison earlier than his actual sentence expires.

Although Bankman-Fried was convicted on all charges and was FTX’s founder and leader, his sentencing request argued that his culpability is low. The court filing has sections titled, “Sam’s Philosophy And Philanthropy,” “Sam Is Not Motivated By Greed,” “Sam’s Caring For Individuals,” “Sam’s Work Ethic,” “Sam’s Remorse,” “Sam’s Low-Level Culpability,” and “Sam’s Condition.”

“Sam was not predatory. He did not set out to prey on the elderly, the unsophisticated, or implement a plan to poach pension assets. His conduct falls far lower on the culpability scale,” the filing said. He also “never intended to cause loss for the purpose of his own personal gain,” his legal team said.

Bankman-Fried’s conduct should be characterized as “risk shifting,” the filing said. Risk-shifting “offenses are not specifically intended to cause loss. Instead, they shift the risk of any potential loss from the defendant (or from others involved in the criminal undertaking) to a third party, such as the victim of the offense.”

According to Bankman-Fried’s legal team, this makes his offenses similar in severity to “false statements for the purpose of obtaining a bank loan that is intended to be repaid. Such offenses are generally less culpable than those where loss is specifically intended.”

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