Sam Bankman-Fried will testify at criminal trial, lawyer says

FILE PHOTO: Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried, who faces fraud charges over the collapse of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, leaves following a hearing at Manhattan federal court in New York City, U.S. January 3, 2023. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried plans to testify in his own defense at his criminal fraud trial, defense lawyer Mark Cohen said during a telephone hearing on Wednesday.

Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to charges he looted billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to plug losses at his Alameda Research hedge fund, make speculative venture investments, and donate more than $100 million to U.S. political candidates and campaigns.

Three former members of Bankman-Fried's inner circle at FTX and Alameda testified during his trial earlier this month that he directed them to commit fraud.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case on Thursday after a weeklong break. The defense is then expected to begin presenting its case.

For criminal defendants, taking the stand is risky as it exposes them to probing cross-examination by prosecutors who would come armed with documents, messages and testimony from cooperating witnesses that they can use to attack his credibility.

But Bankman-Fried's penchant for risk, his willingness to speak publicly about the charges, and prosecutors' unflattering portrayal of him at the trial so far suggested he may bet that he can convince at least one juror that he did not intend to commit fraud, legal experts told Reuters.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen and Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Daniel Wallis)

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