Sam Bankman-Fried’s final hours in court: Gasps, somberness, and despair

After 30 minutes of deliberation on Thursday, the jury in the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of the crypto exchange FTX, sent the court a note at about 3:45 p.m. “We want cars,” it read, in reference to free taxis home for the jurors if their discussions lasted into the evening.

Reporters in the courthouse had previously whispered among themselves that the jury may return the next morning and not deliberate until 8 p.m. that night, given the complexity of the accusations against Bankman-Fried, whom the Justice Department charged with seven counts of fraud and money laundering. However, the jurors’ decision to stay late—and eat dinner on the government’s dime—was the first indication that they may come to a verdict in one of the most high-profile cases of financial fraud in recent history.

As the sun slanted through windows that overlooked the East River, the 26th-floor courtroom—excluding a few members of the press—was empty. Day turned to night, and at about 7:40 p.m., Andrew Mohan, the deputy court clerk, announced that the jury had reached a verdict.

There was an audible gasp. Reporters flocked into the room. And then came Bankman-Fried’s parents, Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried, who sat in the third row just behind the rapidly sketching court artists, their same perch throughout the month-long trial of their eldest son. Bankman’s arm wrapped around his wife’s shoulders, and both stared intently toward the front of the courtroom.

Shortly after Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, took a seat in the front row, Judge Lewis Kaplan, who was presiding over the case, took to his bench. The jury filed in and Bankman-Fried rose and faced the 12 jurors, a tuft of hair spiking out from his head and his oversized suit sagging on his shoulders.

The foreperson read out the verdict. Guilty of wire fraud. Guilty of conspiracy of wire fraud. And guilty on five more counts, including defrauding lenders and investors, and money laundering.

Bankman sat with his head held between his legs, his hands grasping his face in obvious despair. Fried sat face down, her hands covering her eyes and pushing up thick black glasses onto her forehead. The audience sat silently as Mark Cohen, Bankman-Fried’s attorney, asked the judge to poll each juror on their verdict. Each confirmed his or her verdict: guilty.

“With that, you are discharged,” Kaplan said to the jury after instructing them about speaking about the case publicly. They filed out of the courtroom, and Bankman and Fried clutched each other, just a few strides away from their once-billionaire son.

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