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Damian Williams, First Black Attorney Prosecutes One of The Biggest Financial Frauds in U.S. History

Lead Prosecutor in Bankman-Fried FTX Case

An indictment by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, charged Mr. Bankman-Fried with eight counts of fraud as well as conspiring to defraud the U.S. and violating campaign-finance rules by making illegal political contributions. Damian Williams, the lead attorney for this case, authorized the charges against Mr. Bankman-Fried leading to the grand jury vote. “This investigation is very much ongoing, and it is moving very quickly,” Mr. Williams said at a press conference. “While this is our first public announcement, it will not be our last.”

Mr. Williams has been known for the Sheldon Silver high profile corruption case, where after prosecuting a two-week trial with no notes, Silver was convicted on several counts leading to a 6½-year prison sentence. Mr. Williams is also known for prosecuting securities fraud cases which demonstrates that the FTX case poses no difficulty for Mr. Williams, given his experience and diversity. This is a major event for the financial industry as results from this case will indicate for investors which direction cryptocurrency will head. Sam Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty to fraud charges in federal court in New York earlier this month. The trial is set to begin on Oct. 2.

First Lead Black Southern District Attorney

For the first time in 232 years, an AA prosecutor by the name of Damian Williams leads the Southern District of New York, making him the most powerful federal law enforcement official in Manhattan. Born in Brooklyn, but raised in Atlanta, Mr. Williams attended a private day school, Woodward Academy, where he excelled in academics and served as student body president in his senior high school year. He then went onto Harvard, where Mr. Williams majored in economics and obtained his master’s degree in international relations at the University of Cambridge. After the death of his older sister, Tiffani Simone Williams, 25, to whom he was devoted, he entered Yale Law School beginning a formative period for the future prosecutor. As he entered his second year at law school, he worked as an intern in the Southern District. After graduation in 2007, Mr. Williams held two prestigious clerkships in Washington, for Merrick B. Garland, then Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Mr. Williams then spent three years as a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, a Manhattan law firm known for its white-collar defense practice. He worked closely with Mr. Wells, one of the leaders of the firm’s litigation department, assisting in his representation of Gov. David A. Paterson of New York in a 2010 state ethics inquiry, and in Mr. Wells successful defense of Citigroup in a three-week civil trial.

“He’s also somebody who offers a heightened potential for thoughtfulness and creativity when it comes to bigger questions concerning criminal justice.”

“Beyond his extraordinary qualifications, Mr. Williams is the right person at this time in history to be the U.S. attorney for Manhattan,” said Theodore V. Wells Jr., a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss and one of America’s most prominent litigators. “It’s important for both blacks and whites to see a person of African-American descent — especially in this time where there’s so much social unrest — in that top job,” Mr. Wells said. David E. Patton, New York City’s federal public defender, claims “Mr. Williams now has the opportunity to institute key reforms in the way his prosecutors charge cases, like embracing President Biden’s campaign pledge to end mandatory minimum sentences.” In addition to key reforms, Mr. Williams will confront the fraud and corruption that currently disrupts the financial industry today. “It’s not just that Damian is going to be the first Black U.S. attorney,” said Martin S. Bell, a former Southern District prosecutor. “He’s also somebody who offers a heightened potential for thoughtfulness and creativity when it comes to bigger questions concerning criminal justice.”

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