On a balmy October morning in New York City, Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO of the the crypto exchange FTX, and his lawyers showed up in court to begin what prosecutors for the government are estimating will be a six-week showdown between a team of decorated attorneys from the Southern District of New York and a set of seasoned criminal defense lawyers.
The affair, though, didn’t start with fireworks. It was a procedural hearing to select the 12 members of the jury and six alternates who will ultimately decide the fate of the crypto wunderkind turned (alleged) crypto criminal.
There were, however, some surprises—from new revelations about a plea deal to a new look for the former CEO of FTX. Here’s what happened on the first day of what’s sure to be a month-and-a-half deluge of SBF, SBF, and SBF.
Never a plea deal
Before the jury selection process began, prosecutor Nicolas Roos addressed Judge Lewis Kaplan and stated that—in what he said was a customary note at the start of criminal trials—that the government broached the idea of discussing a plea deal early on but that the answer was “no.”
Whether the “no” came from Bankman-Fried’s team or was an internal decision among prosecutors was unclear; however, it was the first public confirmation that prosecutors never delivered a formal plea deal to the FTX cofounder, despite striking deals with four former FTX lieutenants after Bankman-Fried was charged in December.
A spokesperson for the Southern District of New York declined to clarify the above ambiguity to Fortune, and representatives for Bankman-Fried’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Yes, he did get a haircut
On Monday, Martin Shkreli, the “pharma bro” who spent four years in prison for securities fraud, posted on X (formerly Twitter) he had heard that Bankman-Fried—known for his unruly mop of black curls—had cut his hair. (Shkreli, who also spent time in the Brooklyn prison, has decided to spend his early release from prison mired in the details of another case of alleged white-collar crime.)
When he appeared in court on Tuesday, Bankman-Fried was indeed sporting a new haircut, but, unsurprisingly, the former billionaire, whose trademark look was a general air of dishevelment, was, well, still disheveled.
Even through the pixelation of a court camera, his hair stuck up oddly as he hunched over his laptop and took notes during the proceedings. He was, however, wearing a suit, trading in his trademark wrinkled T-shirt and cargo shorts for a gray jacket and pants.
Some surprise jurors
After further instructions from Kaplan, some 50 potential jurors filed into the courtroom, with another set sent to an overflow room.
Kaplan, often with an air of humor, slowly winnowed the pool of jurors, first asking those called to court whether they would be able to be fair and impartial. A number of potential jurors raised their hands and were summarily dismissed after they heard a brief description of the case.
As of Tuesday afternoon, jury selection was ongoing.
One potential juror had said she worked at Insight Partners, a venture capital and private equity firm that invested in FTX and Alameda in July 2021. She, however, did not make the investment and said she could impartially weigh evidence presented before her about Bankman-Fried’s alleged fraud.
At one point, Kaplan asked whether six weeks of jury duty would present unnecessary hardship for those remaining in the courtroom. One potential juror said his employer would only cover two weeks of pay if he were selected. Another said he was currently unemployed and looking for a new job. Taking six weeks out of his job search process, hence, would be an undue burden, he argued.
Kaplan, presiding over the trial of a former CEO of a crypto commodities exchange, asked this juror what he did for a living. He replied: “I’m a commodities trader.”