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Friday, March 29, 2024


Eric M. Garcia at MSNBC:
The 25-year sentence Sam Bankman-Fried got Thursday for defrauding users of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX is evidence that the defendant’s past attempts to have his autism considered a mitigating factor during the judge’s sentencing decisions didn’t work. Multiple people had argued on Bankman-Fried’s behalf that his autism made him less culpable for his crimes or less deserving of a lengthy stay in prison.


Reading these statements as an autistic person evoked in me conflicting thoughts: The plea for leniency because of Bankman-Fried’s neurotype follows a tired trope. We’ve seen such appeals before. An attorney for Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, said of him and other January 6 defendants, “These are people with brain damage, they’re f------ retarded, they’re on the g--d---n spectrum.” Those narratives equate bad behavior with autistic traits and imply that autism makes people commit crimes.


Yes, prison conditions are especially hard on autistic people. Those advocating on behalf of Bankman-Fried aren’t wrong to think so. All the same,  Bankman-Fried’s attempt to use his neurodivergence as a means to escape the consequences of his actions are wrong.The criminal justice system consistently fails neurodivergent people, but Bankman-Fried is not in that number.