On the first day of Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial, in a dark mahogany-walled court room at the Southern District of New York, federal district Judge Lewis Kaplan asked the U.S. government if it had ever offered any plea offers to the defendant.
The government’s lawyers confirmed they did not.
It was a slow start to the six-week-long trial. The jury selection process began Tuesday, and the room was quiet and sober, except for conversations involving the judge, both parties and the prospective jurors.
Bankman-Fried shed his usual cargo pants and T-shirt for a suit and tie; his usually messy curls seem to have been trimmed a bit, too. He didn’t talk much, only speaking out once to say “yes” when Kaplan asked if he understood he had the right to testify if he wanted to.
Kaplan said the trial could likely take less than six weeks. “It rarely takes that long,” but there’s no guarantee, he added. “There’s a good likelihood” the trial will be over by Thanksgiving, though.
The seven charges being presented against Bankman-Fried are serious, but Judge Kaplan presided with a more playful, friendly and positive air. He reminded the prospective jurors that they shouldn’t research or use any electronic devices to look up news.
Some potential jurors claimed they heard about the highly publicized case on the news, podcasts and other media; one claimed her employer, venture capital and private equity firm Insight Partners, invested in FTX and its sister company Alameda, illustrating how closely tied this trial could be.
Kaplan anticipates that the 12 jurors and six alternates will be chosen by end of the day, if not early Wednesday morning prior to the opening statements from both parties.