The jury for Sam Bankman-Fried's trial on charges of stealing billions of dollars from customers of his now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchangewas selected on Wednesday, paving the way for opening statements to start soon.
The 31-year-old-former billionaire's trial kicked off on Tuesday, nearly a year after FTX collapsed in a meltdown that shocked financial markets and tarnished the budding entrepreneur and philanthropist's reputation as an honest actor in a crypto sector pockmarked by scams and purported get-rich-quick schemes.
US district judge Lewis Kaplan on Wednesday interviewed a pool of more than 40 qualified jurors, after dismissing dozens on Tuesday who could not serve for personal or professional reasons or would not be able to reach an impartial verdict.
The panel of 12 jurors he and lawyers for both sides ultimately selected on Wednesday includes a 47-year-old high school librarian who lives with her sister and has two cats, and a 68-year-old retired investment banker who attended Stanford Business School.
The six alternate jurors include a 22-year-old supermarket worker who lives with her parents, and a 58-year-old associate conductor on the New York area's Metro-North Railroad.
Prosecutors and the defence are expected to lay out their cases shortly in opening statements. The first witness would then be called.
Parents in court
Bankman-Fried's parents, Stanford Law School professors Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, were seen arriving at the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan on Wednesday morning. They had not attended the trial's first day.
They were both on a list read by a prosecutor on Tuesday of possible witnesses or individuals who may be otherwise mentioned in testimony, along with Bankman-Fried's brother Gabriel Bankman-Fried and former Donald Trump staffer Anthony Scaramucci. That does not necessarily mean they will be called to testify.
Prosecutors with the US Attorney's office in Manhattan say Bankman-Fried used FTX customer money from the exchange's 2019 launch until its November 2022 bankruptcy in order to prop up his hedge fund, Alameda Research, buy luxury real estate, and donate to US political campaigns and candidates.
They are expected to call three former members of Bankman-Fried's inner circle - former Alameda chief executive Caroline Ellison and former FTX executives Nishad Singh and Gary Wang - to testify against him. All three have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty and is likely to argue that while he failed to adequately manage risk, he did not steal money. His lawyers are likely to try to shift the blame for FTX's dramatic failure to the cooperating witnesses, and argue they are implicating Bankman-Fried in order to seek lenient sentences.
Once known for his casual attire and mop of unkempt curls, Bankman-Fried sported a trim haircut and wore a suit and tie in court on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
He has been detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since Aug 11, when Kaplan jailed him for likely tampering with witnesses, including by sharing Ellison's private writings with a reporter. Bankman-Fried and Ellison were at times romantic partners.