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Sam Bankman-Fried to take the stand in FTX trial ‘Hail Mary’

As Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial approaches its final innings, the question of how he’ll mount his defense hangs over the proceedings.

On Thursday, prosecutors will finish their case against Bankman-Fried — which includes seven charges related to fraud and money laundering — and the defendant’s team will be given the opportunity to make a case.

During a teleconference on Wednesday, Mark Cohen, Bankman-Fried’s lead attorney, said that the defense has three potential witnesses. He also said, “Our client will be testifying.”

Cohen said he expects Bankman-Fried’s testimony to be the same length as that of his former colleagues, who pleaded guilty: FTX co-founder and CTO Gary Wang, Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, and FTX head of engineering Nishad Singh. He also said that it will take a “good part of Thursday, maybe all of Thursday,” with potential for Friday cross-examination.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Nicolas Roos said if the defendant testifies, which Cohen indicated he is, and depending on what Bankman-Fried says, a Monday closing for the trial “may no longer be realistic.”

“We’re in the last innings, and, to switch metaphors, this is his Hail Mary,” said Josh Naftalis, a former federal prosecutor who’s now a partner at Pallas Partners. He predicted earlier this week on TechCrunch’s Chain Reaction podcast that Bankman-Fried would testify.

While he was working in the Southern District of New York, Naftalis secured convictions in every federal criminal trial that he led as an assistant U.S. attorney. Based on that experience, Naftalis said that Bankman-Fried is up against strong evidence, three cooperating witnesses and details of how billions of dollars flowed through corporations he controlled. “This is his opportunity to say, ‘I didn’t intend to do anything wrong. I didn’t act in bad faith. I was acting in good faith, things just got out of control,’ and it’s really hard for any defendant to explain to a jury what’s in his head unless they take a stand,” Naftalis said.

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