Sam Bankman-Fried, who claims not being guilty of all charges against him, is scheduled to appear in court in October.
On Tuesday, Bankman-Fried lost a bid to leave the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center to more effectively prepare for his October 3 trial. His legal team argues that conditions at the facility have made it “impossible” for him to properly examine prosecutors’ evidence. However, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan stated that Bankman-Fried did not clarify what specific evidence he could not access.
On September 12, Mathew Russell Lee, from Inner City Press, posted on X that “Bankman-Fried’s ‘repeated’ request to be released from MDC-Brooklyn have this afternoon been denied by Judge Kaplan – without prejudice to yet another application if more persuasive and factually grounded…”
Interestingly, despite these alleged obstacles, Bankman-Fried has not requested a postponement of the trial. Kaplan has left the door slightly ajar for a “more detailed release request,” a potential lifeline that the defendant should take advantage of.
The Reason Behind Custody
Bankman-Fried was arrested on August 11 after Kaplan found probable cause that he had tampered with witnesses, including exchanging personal writings of his former romantic partner and colleague, Caroline Ellison, with a New York Times reporter. Ellison, former CEO of Alameda Research, pleaded guilty to fraud charges and is expected to testify against Bankman-Fried.
The Justice Department has leveled a series of allegations, including the theft of billions of dollars in FTX client funds to cover Alameda’s losses, as well as to fuel Bankman-Fried’s real estate ambitions and political efforts.
In a somewhat disconcerting move, Justice Department prosecutors dropped Count 8, campaign finance charges, at the Bahamas’ request on August 14. The nature of this request and the involvement of the Bahamas remain a mystery, casting yet another shadow over the already complicated case.
No Pretrial Release for Bankman-Fried
In a court filing on Tuesday (September 12, 2023), Judge Lewis Kaplan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Sam Bankman-Fried failed to provide strong arguments regarding the release request of preventive detention.
In outlining the reasons for the denial, Judge Kaplan said Bankman-Fried’s claim of not having sufficient Internet access in prison to prepare for his trial fell short, stating that the former FTX boss had “ample access” after his initial release on bail prior to said bail was revoked.
Bankman-Fried’s lawyers previously stated in a September 8 letter that the former cryptocurrency mogul was not getting very limited access to a “laptop with Internet access.” However, Kaplan, in the recent filing, said: “The defendant has not demonstrated in detail the specific materials he claims to have been unable to access personally and the reasons why such personal inability would actually impede his defense.”
According to the district judge, Bankman-Fried’s legal team could provide the necessary materials on hard drives for his client at the MDC to review. Additionally, Kaplan said no represented defendant had the right to review and inspect every discovery.
On September 19, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will hear arguments on the appeal of Bankman-Fried’s detention order. As the October 3 trial date approaches, the fate of SBF and FTX hangs in the balance.
By Leonardo Pérez