Sam Bankman-Fried Faces ‘Extreme Danger’ in Prison, His Family Says

Michael M Santiago/Getty Images
Michael M Santiago/Getty Images

Sam Bankman-Fried’s family, acquaintances, and former employees asked a judge Tuesday to give the fallen FTX founder a lenient sentence, arguing that he’s been incorrectly smeared as a greedy villain who now faces “extreme danger” in prison.

A total of 29 letters supporting the 31-year-old were submitted alongside a sentencing memorandum following the crypto mogul’s conviction for stealing $8 billion from customers of his cryptocurrency exchange. Marc Mukasey, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, urged U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan to reject the “grotesque” and “barbaric” 100-year sentence recommended by a probation office.

Boy Genius No More: Sam Bankman-Fried Convicted on All 7 Counts

Bankman-Fried, who had denied orchestrating one of the biggest financial frauds in corporate history, was convicted in November on seven counts of fraud and conspiracy. His sentencing is scheduled for March 28, but he has been jailed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn since August.

SBF’s parents, both Stanford law professors, wrote to Kaplan to say their son has been unfairly vilified by the press and that he faces unusual hardship in prison.

“It is easy to be cynical about others’ professed motives to do good in the world,” his mother, Barbara Fried, wrote in her letter. “It is even easier in Sam’s case, because the only thing the world knows about him is his connection to what has been described relentlessly in the media over the past year as ‘the fraud of the century,’ and his portrayal as a cartoonish villain driven by greed.”

She added that his moral character is demonstrated by his commitment to veganism even in custody, “where the absence of vegan food has forced him to live on commissary junk food.” Fried also claimed her son has “lost 30 pounds since he was remanded to prison in August.”

The concerned parent also argued that Bankman-Fried had been portrayed “as a freak with evil intentions.” But she said that public ridicule is much less serious than the treatment he could incur in prison. “I genuinely fear for Sam’s life in the typical prison environment,” she wrote, adding that his “inability to read or respond appropriately to many social cues” helped to “put him in extreme danger.”

The point was echoed by his father, Joseph Bankman, in another letter.

“A draconian sentence would likely lead to a placement in a high (or at best medium) security prison,” he wrote. “Such a setting would put Sam in an environment where his responses to social cues will sometimes be seen as odd, inappropriate and disrespectful; when that happens, he will be in significant physical danger. Nothing he has done can justify putting him at that risk.”

Dr. George Lerner, Bankman-Fried’s psychiatrist since 2019, also wrote to highlight that his patient is “on the autism spectrum” and has battled “life-long depression.” “During his house arrest, Sam wrote, ‘There will probably never be anything I can do to make my lifetime impact net positive,’” Lerner wrote. “It is a devastating self-assessment for someone who has devoted his life to improving the welfare of others.”

Carmine Simpson, a former NYPD officer who is now jailed alongside Bankman-Fried, also shed light on the hardships the former billionaire is facing in custody. “Even though twelve out of every fourteen of Sam’s weekly meals are just undercooked rice, a scoop of disgusting-looking beans and week-old brown lettuce, Sam has stayed true to his commitment to not participate in the maltreatment of animals,” Simpson wrote.

He also wrote that “Sam is the least physically intimidating person and this is especially noticeable inside a jail.” “This has and will lead to him being frequently targeted for hazing, harassment, and assault more so than the average inmate,” Simpson claimed. He added that Bankman-Fried doesn’t just have to worry about people “trying to extort or harass him,” but also that “‘jailhouse snitches’ would lie either to the Government, the Media or both regarding him.”

Mukasey, Bankman-Fried’s attorney, argued that his client should be given a sentence no longer than six-and-a-half years.

“Sam is not the ‘evil genius’ depicted in the media or the greedy villain described at trial,” he told Kaplan. Rather, Mukasey added, Bankman-Fried is a “first-time, non-violent offender, who was joined in the conduct at issue by at least four other culpable individuals, in a matter where victims are poised to recover—were always poised to recover—a hundred cents on the dollar.”

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