Sam Bankman-Fried, FTX’s embattled founder, is reportedly planning to hire seven expert witnesses for his upcoming fraud trial at rates up to $1,200 per hour.
According to a report dated Aug. 31, among the experts being considered is Bradley Smith, a law professor at Capital University Law School and a former commissioner of the Federal Election Commission.
Smith has confirmed in a court filing that he is being compensated at a rate of $1,200 per hour. Other potential witnesses could charge between $400 and $1,100 per hour for their expertise.
These witnesses would provide insights into campaign finance laws, scrutinize the operations of FTX favorably, and delve into its terms and conditions.
Despite Bankman-Fried’s previous claim of having only $100,000 left in his bank account following the collapse of FTX, he is funding his legal defense with $10 million of company funds that he had earlier gifted to his father.
Lawyers handling the FTX bankruptcy case have also been charging the firm up to $2,000 an hour, a rate they claim is not uncommon in the legal industry.
Trial date and prosecution challenges
The news of SBF’s expert witness recruitment comes amid reports that his trial date, initially set for October, may be postponed until March 2024.
Judge Kaplan has indicated that the delay aims to give SBF ample time to review the substantial evidence against him.
SBF’s legal team has argued that the late disclosure of significant amounts of additional evidence by US prosecutors could jeopardize his chances of a fair trial.
On Aug. 29, prosecutors reportedly introduced an additional 4 million pages of evidence into the case.
SBF’s lawyers assert that the “government cannot dump millions of pages on the defense less than six weeks before trial.”
On the other hand, Federal prosecutors seek to prevent the expert witnesses from testifying, alleging that their primary role would be supporting SBF’s claims of innocence.
Meanwhile, tensions have escalated as Bankman-Fried currently serves time in prison following efforts by prosecutors to revoke his bail due to allegations of witness tampering.
He is accused of leaking private journals of his former girlfriend, Caroline Ellison, to the New York Times to intimidate her. Ellison is considered a significant witness for the prosecution.
Bankman-Fried’s legal team has cited various challenges, including lack of quality internet access, for him to be placed under house arrest instead of prison.