Sam Bankman-Fried wants to pay 7 expert witnesses up to $1,200 an hour to testify on his behalf

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Sam Bankman-Fried wants to pay 7 expert witnesses up to $1,200 an hour to testify on his behalf
Sam Bankman-Fried.ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
  • Sam Bankman-Fried is trying to build his legal defense with seven expert witnesses.
  • One of them, a former FEC commissioner, is charging $1,200 an hour.
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Sam Bankman-Fried wants to pay seven expert witnesses up to $1,200 an hour as part of his upcoming trial.

That includes Bradley Smith, a law professor at Capital University Law School and former commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, who wrote in a court filing that he's being compensated at an hourly rate of $1,200 an hour.

And Lawrence Akka, an English barrister with a specialty in digital assets, whose hourly rate is £800 or $1,009, per court filings seen by Insider.

Four of the other proposed expert witnesses are charging between $400 and $720 an hour, while one didn't specify their fee. All seven of the experts declared in their court filings that they have no financial interest in the outcome of the case, and their payment is not contingent on their opinions.

The FTX founder previously said he only had $100,000 in his bank account after his crypto exchange's collapse eradicated his billionaire status. Lawyers handling the FTX bankruptcy case say that Bankman-Fried is paying for his defense with $10 million of company funds that he previously gifted to his father.

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The hefty fees aren't unusual for the legal industry, with FTX's own lawyers handling its bankruptcy charging the firm as much as $2,000 an hour.

Bankman-Fried is preparing his defense ahead of his trial at the start of October on seven charges, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty.

In his court filing, Smith said he would testify about US campaign finance laws by giving background on the history and purpose of these laws. US authorities allege that Bankman-Fried illegally ran a scheme using FTX customers' money to donate millions to politicians.

But prosecutors aren't happy with the choice of proposed witnesses and are trying to exclude all of them from testifying.

That's largely because prosecutors say some of the proposed witnesses "would offer legal conclusions that invade the purview of the Court and the jury, or serve no other purpose than to provide an expert patina to inadmissible hearsay testimony about the defendant's supposed lack of criminal knowledge or intent." The result of which, would be "confusing" and "misleading" for the jury, they said.

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Prosecutors also say that Smith's testimony is irrelevant because there isn't a specific campaign finance charge being brought against Bankman-Fried — however, prosecutors are hoping to use comments about the political donations as evidence in fraud charges.

And because Akka's court filing outlining his opinion is based on English case law, prosecutors say this could confuse the jury as it's a different legal system.

A spokesperson for Bankman-Fried declined to comment.

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