What do Sam Bankman-Fried and Rod Blagojevich have in common?
They never met a reporter or an open-ended question they didn’t love to use to defend their innocence against far-reaching charges (and in Blago’s case, convictions) of fraud.
Both men deployed unusual strategies to defend their cases in the court of public opinion before their actual criminal court trials.
While we know what happened in the former Illinois Governor’s case, it remains to be seen how SBF will fare with his awkward, rambling — and potentially damning — public apology tour after the remarkable collapse of FTX last fall.
His publicity blitz included at least eight tweets, a Substack newsletter, and a number of lengthy media interviews topped off by the especially unusual Good Morning America interview with George Stephanopoulos — each one a gift to federal prosecutors who simply sat back and hit “record” as they added to their already mountainous pile of evidence against the crypto king.
With the federal trial beginning today, PR strategists and white-collar defense attorneys alike will be tuning in closely to assess if Bankman-Fried’s approach will come back to haunt him.
Rarely do media stunts help a criminal defendant’s cause leading up to their trial, especially ones without appropriate guardrails in place — support from PR counsel on the right messages, the right optics and in coordination with legal counsel to know what the “no fly zones” are as far as commenting or not.
That’s why most defendants stay quiet once charges are filed and let the professionals do the talking for them.
We’ll know more in the coming weeks as to whether this high-risk approach will work in SBF’s favor.
My bet? He’s toast.
This article was written by President Natalie Bauer Luce. Natalie is a seasoned communications and public affairs strategist with extensive experience in government, law, media, politics and business.