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SBF’s ‘Best Chance of Having Life Outside of Prison Is To Take a Plea’ — Former SDNY Prosecutor Rebecca Mermelstein

Last Updated September 13, 2023 11:58 AM
James Morales
Last Updated September 13, 2023 11:58 AM
Key Takeaways
  • Rebecca Mermelstein said that Sam Bankman-Fried should seriously consider cutting a deal.
  • A plea deal could be his best chance of avoiding a life behind bars.
  • Several former members of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle have already reached plea agreements.
  • Their testimony could prove vital evidence in the case against SBF.

Rebecca Mermelstein is a former Southern District of New York (SDNY) prosecutor who spent time in the securities fraud unit. As such, she is well placed to weigh in on Sam Bankman-Fried’s prospects as his October 3 trial date approaches.

In a recent podcast , Mermelstein said that Bankman-Fried could face 30 years to life if he is found guilty, and should seriously consider a plea deal.

Plea Deal Could Prevent SBF From Spending the Rest of His Life Behind Bars

Discussing the options Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) faced before his  trial on fraud charges, Mermelstein said: “If I were him, I’d be thinking about whether or not there was a plea offer that made sense.”

Noting that Judge Kaplan, who will preside over the trial, is known among prosecutors as a harsh sentencer, she speculated that SBF could face 30 years to life if convicted.

However, if he pleads guilty before the trial begins, he could have his sentence significantly reduced. “He’s a young person and his best chance of having a life outside of prison is probably to take a plea,” Mermelstein opined.

However, making a deal still comes with its risks.

Ultimately, SBF won’t know his punishment until he changes his plea. As Mermelstien noted, jail time is still the most likely outcome. The judge is only required to take the plea into account when handing down a sentence.

Former FTX Executives Turn Against Each Other

As the events that led up to the spectacular collapse of FTX and Alameda have come to light, the once close-knit senior management team have increasingly turned against each other. 

Executives who have agreed to cooperate with SBF’s prosecution include the FTX co-founder Gary Wang and Bankman-Fried’s former girlfriend and Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison.

Although there is no guarantee that Wang or Ellison’s testimony will be used against SBF, both parties agreed to “cooperate fully,” with SDNY prosecutors in return for lighter sentences.

If they are called to the stand, the former FTX group executives could be critical in securing a guilty verdict for SBF. Their participation in the trial would then be taken into account in their own subsequent sentencing.

Ellsion’s plea agreement  stated that she faced a maximum sentence of 110 years’ imprisonment based on the seven fraud charges brought against her. Meanwhile, Wang’s plea deal  notes that his crimes could be punishable by up to 50 years’ incarceration.

For now, both parties’ sentencing is postponed until the conclusion of the SBF trial. However, Rebecca Mermelstein said that they may ultimately get off lightly.

As she observed, “the average white-collar cooperator” who is a first-time offender in the Southern District of New York, “typically does not go to jail.”

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