Sam Bankman-Fried claims his autism spectrum disorder means he’s ‘uniquely vulnerable’ and so he shouldn’t go to prison for 100 years



In a last-ditch effort to get a more lenient sentence, lawyers for disgraced CEO Sam Bankman-Fried are citing his autism as one reason why he should get five to six years in prison instead of the maximum of 110 years laid out by sentencing guidelines.

In a sentencing memo filed Tuesday, lawyers for SBF asked a judge to sentence him to 63 to 78 months in jail in part because he is “uniquely vulnerable in a prison population.” His lawyers claim that SBF’s autism spectrum disorder puts him at higher risk of violence and extortion by other inmates because of how he acts, according to the filing. 

“Because individuals with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) may have difficulty responding to certain social cues and contexts, they are at risk from both other inmates and prison guards who may view their failure to respond ‘appropriately’ to social cues as disrespectful or disobedient,” SBF’s lawyers write in the memo.

Bankman-Fried would also have trouble understanding and acting in accordance with any “unwritten rules,” that rely on social cues and differ from the actual rules of the prison, according to the filing.

The disgraced crypto CEO misappropriated customer funds to buy real estate, advertisements, and to support risky bets at FTX’s sister trading firm. When the house of cards collapsed, it left customers out of billions of dollars, some of whom lost their life savings. Sentencing guidelines recommend that the 31-year-old be locked up for a maximum of 110 years after he was found guilty of seven counts related to fraud committed as CEO. Prosecutors have yet to file their own sentencing recommendations.

In the past, Bankman-Fried tried to fit in despite his neurodivergence by practicing facial expressions and forcing himself to make eye contact, his lawyers added, but he can be perceived as, “abrupt, dismissive, evasive, detached or uncaring.” This is especially the case when he is under pressure and can’t prepare beforehand, the memo reads. The lawyers added that SBF has also been on medications for anhedonic depression since college.

Bankman-Fried in prison

Since his bail was revoked in August, Bankman-Fried has been held at Metropolitan Detention Center in New York City, a facility that is known for staffing shortages and subpar conditions. Bankman-Fried’s lawyers have also complained about his ability to get the prescribed medications he needs to treat his ADHD and depression.

Last week, crypto influencer and journalist Tiffany Fong published the first image of SBF in prison, which showed him several pounds lighter and clasping his hands as he posed with other inmates. One of the inmates pictured with SBF also told Fong in an interview that the former FTX CEO was “weird as shit” and “can be strange” but that he is a good person and President Biden should ultimately pardon him.

While several of his close business associates, including his ex-girlfriend and CEO of FTX’s sister trading firm Alameda research Caroline Ellison, testified against him during his trial, his family and others who knew him closely filed letters of support with the judge that spoke to his good character and touched on his social behaviors.

One letter, written by the psychiatrist he has been seeing since 2019 who was also FTX’s former in-house coach, supported Bankman-Fried’s lawyers’ claims that he could be at risk because of his autism. The psychiatrist, Dr. George K. Lerner, said in the letter that SBF’s intelligence allowed him to compensate for his social deficiencies, but that he gets worse when he’s stressed or under pressure.

“[H]e can lose his ability to compensate and as a result can come across to others as brusque, unfeeling, sometimes as if he doesn’t even hear them,” Lerner wrote.

Another supporter, fellow inmate and accused pedophile Carmine Simpson, added that Bankman-Fried has, more than the average inmate, been targeted for hazing, harassment, and assault. His claims could not be verified.

“Sam is the least physically intimidating person and this is especially noticeable inside a jail,” Simpson wrote.

SBF and his lawyers claim that along with consideration for his autism, SBF should get a lighter sentence because he has in the past given large sums to charity and because the FTX customers who lost money due to his crimes are likely to be made whole by the company in the future. SBF has not been involved in the efforts to repay customers. 

While Bankman-Fried’s lawyers and supporters are asking for a leaner sentence, others say he shouldn’t get off so easily.

Bankman-Fried’s hearing is set for March 28.





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