As Sam Bankman-Fried’s sentencing approaches, letters invoking vegan lifestyle call for leniency

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Advocates for Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried, expected to be sentenced on March 28 following his conviction on seven felony counts, have called for leniency for the former FTX CEO.

In letters filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 26, five individuals called on Judge Lewis Kaplan to impose a light sentence on SBF. The letters, from people who knew Bankman-Fried personally or were impacted by the collapse of FTX, highlighted SBF’s vegan lifestyle, his experience dealing with autism, and the exchange’s plan to repay users.

Dr. Adam Hesterberg, who lived with SBF from 2012 to 2014, argued the former FTX CEO should receive “leniency in his sentence” based in part on converting half of their household to vegetarianism or veganism. Others who did not know the CEO personally suggested that Judge Kaplan consider Bankman-Fried’s atypical “personality traits” in and out of the courtroom.

“I can speak from experience that the mind of those on the spectrum works differently,” said Maria Centrella, a mother of a child diagnosed with autism. “Though I have never met Sam, I firmly believe that while he may be an MIT grad – he did not fully understand the scope of what was going on and did not have malicious intent.”

Source: Courtlistener

Prosecutors submitted a sentence recommendation that Bankman-Fried serve between 40 and 50 years for his role in misusing funds at FTX and Alameda Research. SBF’s lawyers recommended he serve 6.5 years behind bars. The maximum allowable sentence gives Judge Kaplan the discretion to sentence SBF for up to 110 years, but many have suggested that this outcome is unlikely.

Related: SBF says proposed 50-year sentence casts him as ‘depraved super-villain’

Bankman-Fried’s immediate family and others submitted similar character references to the judge in February, claiming that throwing him in prison would be “draconian” and present the risk of physical danger given his personality. Many of the letters do not mention the impact the collapse of FTX had on investors, who lost access to millions of dollars.

“SBF does not deserve to get off lightly for his crimes because of the ‘autism defence,’” said AutismBC Director Lucas Gates in a Feb. 28 X post. “He knew what he did was fraud, and he should go to prison for the rest of his days.”

The former FTX CEO has been in prison since Judge Kaplan revoked his bail in August 2023 following alleged attempts to influence or intimidate witnesses in his criminal case. In November, a jury convicted Bankman-Fried on all seven counts after a month-long trial.

Magazine: ‘Less flashy’ Mashinsky set for less jail time than SBF: Inner City Press, X Hall of Flame