(Bloomberg) -- Sam Bankman-Fried’s family and friends flooded the judge who will sentence the FTX co-founder next month with pleas for leniency, arguing that his public image as a “freak with evil intentions” was dead wrong.

More than two dozen people filed letters to accompany the sentencing recommendation submitted by Bankman-Fried’s lawyers late Tuesday night. The lawyers asked that he be given no more than 6 1/2 years in prison, though he potentially faces decades behind bars when US District Judge Lewis Kaplan sentences him for fraud and other counts on March 28.

Such letters are typically submitted by defendants’ family and friends ahead of sentencing, though it’s hard to gauge their impact. More than 130 letters were written on behalf of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes before she was sentenced to 11 years in prison, far more than the 18 months her lawyers were seeking.

Bankman-Fried’s mother, Stanford Law Professor Barbara Fried, wrote an impassioned six-page letter in which she said she was setting aside her legal perspective and speaking “only as mother.” She said that her son was nothing like the “cartoonish villain driven by greed” depicted by the media and decried how he’d been both built up and knocked down. 

“The broader public was charmed by many of his eccentricities – or at least pretended to be – while he was on top of the world,” Fried wrote. “The moment he fell, the same public became merciless, ridiculing his awkward traits and verbal style, taking them as a sign of duplicity or worse, and portraying him as a freak with evil intentions.”

Extortion Attempts

Bankman-Fried’s father, Stanford Law Professor Joseph Bankman, and his brother, Gabriel, also submitted letters on his behalf. They joined Fried and several other writers in stressing that Bankman-Fried was an unusually selfless person but also a very socially awkward one. Many expressed fear that prison would prove an especially harmful environment for him, both physically and psychologically.

Carmine Simpson, a fellow inmate at the Brooklyn federal lockup where Bankman-Fried’s been in custody for the past several months, said in a letter that the onetime crypto mogul has already faced multiple extortion attempts because of his perceived wealth and was placed into a protective custody unit. 

Bankman-Fried, who was once estimated to be worth $28 billion, is the “least physically intimidating person and this is especially noticeable inside a jail,” Simpson wrote, resulting in him being frequently targeted for “hazing, harassment, and assault more so than the average inmate.” 

Simpson, a former New York police officer who pleaded guilty to child pornography charges, said he and Bankman-Fried have grown extremely close in jail, and that his friend has expressed an “immense amount of remorse and regret for whatever mistakes he made that potentially led to the collapse of FTX.” According to Simpson, Bankman-Fried doesn’t belong in jail, and the world would be “better off” if he was outside contributing to society. 

George Lerner, a psychiatrist in San Francisco who has treated Bankman-Fried since 2019 and became an in-house coach at FTX, asked the judge for mercy, saying he doesn’t believe his patient was motivated by greed and that his psychiatric conditions “led others to misinterpret his behavior and motivations.”

On the Spectrum

“Sam is on the autism spectrum, a condition that can interfere with some everyday functions,” Lerner wrote. He said this led to Bankman-Fried discussing the implosion of FTX “in logical, dispassionate terms.” According to Lerner, this was natural for someone on the spectrum, but can seem “uncaring” to others. 

Fried said she feared that her son’s “outward presentation” and his “inability to read or respond appropriately to many social cues” would put his life in “extreme danger” in prison.

“Miscommunication in that environment is dangerous, and Sam’s traits greatly elevate the likelihood of its occurring,” she wrote. “Putting him in solitary confinement to protect him from others is no solution. It is just a more certain form of murder, and in many ways a crueler one, slowly destroying his soul rather than his body.”

Along with Lerner, other former FTX employees also wrote on Bankman-Fried’s behalf. Ross Rheingans-Yoo, a former Jane Street colleague who went to work for the crypto exchange’s charitable foundation, said in his letter that he’d been harmed by Bankman-Fried’s “wrong” actions. But he said he felt “morally obligated” to speak up for Bankman-Fried, whose commitment to altruism remained an inspiration.

“At the end of the day, I can’t bring myself to be angry with him,” Rheingans-Yoo wrote. “If it weren’t for Sam, I would almost certainly be working a comfortable job on Wall Street and thinking that the best way I could make the world better was to write a check every December.”

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