SBF's Expert Witnesses and Trial
As the impending commencement date of FTX co-founder Sam "SBF" Bankman-Fried's trial draws near, recent court documents reveal that SBF may compensate his expert witnesses at a rate exceeding $1,000 per hour if they are called upon to testify in his defense.
For his upcoming fraud trial, slated to begin on October 2, 2023, SBF has identified a potential roster of seven expert witnesses. This list includes individuals such as Lawrence Akka, Thomas Bishop, Brian Kim, Joseph Pimbley, Bradley Smith, Peter Vinella, and Andrew Di Wu.
Among these witnesses, Bradley Smith, the former Chairperson of the Federal Election Commission, has indicated his intention to charge SBF's legal team $1,200 per hour for offering insights into topics such as United States campaign finance laws and straw donors. This information was disclosed in a court filing dated August 28.
Smith affirmed, "I have no financial stake in the case's outcome. I am compensated for my time and services on an hourly basis, at a rate of $1,200 per hour." The filing further clarified, "My compensation for this case is entirely unrelated to the opinions presented here or the final verdict of these legal proceedings."
Conversely, other expert witnesses, namely Akka and Pimbley, could request compensation at the rates of 800 British pounds (equivalent to $1,000) and $720 per hour, respectively, should they be summoned to testify, according to court documents. Hourly fees for the remaining potential expert witnesses on SBF's team range from $400 to $650.
In contrast, Peter Easton, an accounting professor from the University of Notre Dame, slated to testify for the prosecution, is poised to charge $1,175 per hour, as per court records.
These court filings were submitted in response to a motion by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking to prohibit all seven expert witnesses from providing testimony on behalf of SBF during the trial.
The DOJ contended that the proposed experts put forth by Bankman-Fried and the information they have disclosed are fraught with numerous shortcomings, lacking a solid foundation for their opinions.
"The defendant's expert opinions, when disclosed, either fall outside the realm of appropriate expert testimony, lack a dependable methodology or factual basis, or are irrelevant, unjustly prejudicial, and liable to confuse the jury," the DOJ asserted.
This development occurs against the backdrop of the imminent deadline for SBF to request a trial postponement. If the request is submitted and approved by September 1, the trial would be rescheduled to March 11, 2024.
Bankman-Fried is confronting a total of 12 criminal charges, to be divided between two separate trials set to commence on October 2, 2023, and March 11, 2024. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.