Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried arrives for a bail hearing in Manhattan Federal Court on August 11, 2023 in New York.

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Heather Ferguson’s son lost approximately $130,000 in cash when the FTX crypto exchange went bankrupt in November 2022. At the time, Ferguson traveled to where her child lived to spend four days comforting him. Since hitting rock bottom, however, he has shown “resilience,” “confidence” and “a determination to meet life’s challenges with renewed focus and strength,” Ferguson wrote in a memo to U.S. District Judge Louis Kaplan on Tuesday.

Update: FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Sentenced to 25 Years for Crypto Fraud to Pay $11 Billion in Forfeiture

It helps that her son was contacted in January by the entity that oversees the disbursement of customer funds to FTX and was told that he would be refunded the full amount owed to him.

“I am writing to express my hope that Sam Bankman-Fried will receive a sentence in the order of 70 months for his role in the FTX collapse,” Ferguson wrote in his letter to the judge. “The hope that customers’ funds will be recovered in some measure mitigates the weight of Sam’s culpability and it seems to me that the length of his sentence should reflect that fact.”

Ferguson’s letter is part of an eleventh-hour push by the defense to appeal Kaplan’s sense of leniency as the judge prepares for Bankman-Fried’s sentencing hearing Thursday.

In November, a twelve-person jury found the former crypto executive guilty of all seven criminal charges against him, including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud against FTX customers and against creditors of Alameda Research; conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit commodity fraud against FTX investors; and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

That jurors were able to reach a unanimous verdict in just a few hours that the former CEO of FTX stole $8 billion from customers of his now-defunct crypto exchange suggests that they were truly convinced and that there was no waivers that need to be admonished, Yesha Yadav, a law professor and associate dean at Vanderbilt University, previously told CNBC.

Sam Bankman-Fried's family on sentencing: We are heartbroken and will continue to fight for our son

On Tuesday, the defense submitted three letters in support of Bankman-Fried, while prosecutors filed more than 50 letters of their own, bringing the total number of victim impact statements to 117.

Whether FTX’s bankrupt clients should influence the court’s sentencing decision is a major point of contention.

Earlier this month, federal prosecutors in Manhattan wrote in a memo to the court that Bankman-Fried should spend between 40 and 50 years in prison.

“Even now, Bankman-Fried refuses to admit that what he did was wrong,” the government wrote.

Although the bankruptcy estate promises to pay customers in full, many of FTX’s thousands of victims (reportedly up to a million) claim that their crypto stakes were significantly undervalued by the exchange’s new management team.

The prosecution in the Sam Bankman-Fried trial ends in the coming days

Parents get involved

Ferguson is one of three concerned parents who wrote to Kaplan, suggesting that Bankman-Fried’s emotional and behavioral disorders be taken into account as part of his sentencing deliberations.

“Along with the mitigating factors, there is some mention of Sam’s autism disorder and the unpleasant emotions resulting from his ADHD and his medication,” Ferguson wrote. “These are relevant factors in his background that likely caused him to show poor judgment, but are not likely to correlate with an intent to be malicious towards his clients.”

Bankman-Fried’s psychiatrist, George Lerner, told Judge Lewis Kaplan in a letter in August that the former FTX executive has a history of depression and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. ADHD is among the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children.

“In addition, there were times when Mr. Bankman-Fried did not have access to the Emsam patch (usually when traveling/abroad) and exhibited symptoms of depression including lethargy, anhedonia, low motivation and increased rumination,” it wrote Lerner.

Without his medication, Lerner warned the judge, “Bankman-Fried will experience a return of his depression and ADHD symptoms and his ability to assist in his own defense will be severely adversely affected.”

At one point during Bankman-Fried’s criminal trial last year, the defense team also argued that he was not getting adequate access to prescription drugs, including Adderall, a treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. And when they were initially remanded in custody, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers argued that their client had a “limited” and “dwindling” supply of Emsam, a transdermal patch to treat depression.

Maria Centerla, the mother of a 34-year-old son with Asperger’s syndrome, also wrote to Judge Kaplan to share her experience of raising a child on the autism spectrum.

“I have no opinion on his guilt or innocence under the law, but I want to share with you my experiences with my son, which I hope will give you pause to think about Sam’s behavior and mental state leading up to and during of the trial,” wrote Centrella, who says she was unaware of Bankman-Fried’s story until she watched Michael Lewis’ “60 Minutes” interview in which he shared anecdotes from following Bankman-Fried as part of the report for a book about his life.

“As he described Sam, I saw my son and kept wondering why Asperger’s never came up in the segment, because those of us familiar with it could see his behavior, his mannerisms … and his brilliance … as huge indicators that he is on the spectrum,” Centrella wrote.

She went on to say that she contacted Bankman-Fried’s father, Joe, who confirmed that Sam had indeed been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum and that the court had been notified.

“I have no idea how familiar you are with Asperger’s, especially those who work outside and support themselves, but I can say from experience that the minds of those on the spectrum work differently. Although I have never met Sam, I firmly believe that while he may have graduated from MIT – he did not fully understand the scope of what was happening and had no malicious intent,” she wrote.

Matt Kelly, who also has an autistic son and has worked as a special needs teacher in the UK, wrote a three-paragraph letter to share his personal and professional observations which “may be relevant to the sentencing decision”.

“Many of Sam’s personality traits suggest some kind of atypical neurological processes; whether it’s a tendency to avoid eye contact, a habit of not being able to focus on one thing at a time, or a lack of emotional response in a situation where most people would show outward signs of tension and distress,” Kelly writes.

“He also witnessed his former partner and associates testify against him in court and at a
a person with unusual processing, it may have been confusing and upsetting,” Kelly added. “I hope that Sam’s unusual performance is taken into account in your sentencing so that the retribution is proportionate to the degree of culpability and is taken into account what type of institution would be most appropriate in the case of someone like Sam.”

Sam Bankman-Fried prepares to testify in fraud trial in what experts say is a big gamble in the case

MIT Roommate: He Did Shared Laundry ‘On Time’

Two of Bankman-Fried’s former friends and roommates at MIT also submitted character recommendations on his behalf.

Daniel Grazian, who graduated in 2013, says he has known Bankman-Fried “well” for three years.

“Sam was a kind friend and a wonderful person to be around,” Grazian wrote in his letter to the court.

He goes on to say that Bankman-Fried “felt deep sympathy for every living thing, including farm animals” and that his portrayal as “motivated by greed” was “completely inconsistent” with the Sam he knew.

“I believe that if Sam receives a light sentence, he will be an asset to society. If the fact that I still limit my meat consumption for ethical reasons is any indication, Sam will continue to inspire others to be a little kinder and gentler,” Grazian’s letter concluded.

Another classmate, Adam Hesterberg, who was part of the 2018 PhD class, knew Bankman-Fried before MIT, starting at a math camp in 2007.

“In the time I knew him, Sam was responsible, fun to be around and interested in doing good for the world,” Hesterberg wrote in a letter to the judge.

One example he cites is Bankman-Fried’s role in performing housework.

“Sam did his fair share of chores, usually washing the pots and pans used in cooking our meals and washing our kitchen. He consistently did so well and on time; only once did I notice it late when there was a line for the washing machine delayed the kitchen laundry,” the letter states.

Hesterberg went on to detail other examples of Bankman-Fried’s good character, including wanting to “reduce the suffering of farm animals” and encouraging her classmates to donate to charitable causes such as the Malaria Foundation.

“I don’t know to what extent a reference to a character from a decade ago should affect Sam’s sentence, but to any extent, my impression of Sam was almost uniformly positive and argues for leniency in his sentencing,” Hesterberg concludes.