Sam Bankman-Fried Pleads Not Guilty to Latest Indictment

Bankman-Fried's attorney later deplored Bankman-Fried's lack of vegan options in prison, saying he was "subsisting on a diet of bread and water" during the hearing.

AccessTimeIconAug 22, 2023 at 1:21 p.m. UTC
Updated Aug 23, 2023 at 3:10 p.m. UTC
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NEW YORK — Sam Bankman-Fried again pleaded not guilty to fraud and money laundering charges tied to the collapse of his crypto empire, FTX, last year during a court appearance Tuesday.

The FTX founder was arraigned in the Southern District of New York courthouse after a new indictment accused him of using customer funds for everything from buying personal real estate to political donations. The charges are from the original indictment filed last December, and fold a campaign finance charge into other allegations after prosecutors said they couldn't explicitly bring the charge due to treaty obligations with the Bahamas.

Magistrate Judge Sarah Neburn oversaw the hearing, reading out each charge in turn and asking Bankman-Fried if he wanted her to read through the whole indictment (“no,” he said) before asking how he pled.

Bankman-Fried was present in his first court appearance since losing his bail earlier this month. Clad in a tan uniform, he glanced over to – and briefly smiled at – his mother, Barbara Fried, in the audience before rushing over to the table where his attorneys sat, escorted by a U.S. Marshal. His father, Joseph Bankman, was not present at this arraignment, unlike Bankman-Fried’s Aug. 11 hearing.

In the minutes before the arraignment began, Bankman-Fried was in deep conversation with his attorneys.

Tuesday's arraignment comes amid requests from the defense team to let Bankman-Fried meet with his attorneys and have access to internet-enabled laptops at the U.S. Attorney's office every weekday. Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is overseeing the case, ruled Monday that Bankman-Fried could meet with his attorneys until 3:00 p.m. EDT today at the office, but has not yet weighed in on the broader request.

One of Bankman-Fried’s attorneys, Christian Everdell, brought up the issue again during Tuesday’s hearing, arguing that the FTX founder’s Sixth Amendment rights were being violated. Since his detention, he has had no access to discovery, Everdell said.

Bankman-Fried needs to be able to use internet-enabled laptops to review the “millions of” documents produced during discovery, he said.

“There is no way for him to effectively communicate his work product, his analyses to us,” he said. “He needs to be performing analyses.”

Danielle Kudla, an assistant U.S. attorney, noted that the issue had already been briefed before Judge Kaplan, who had rejected the request.

“You know magistrate judges don’t typically outrank…” Netburn said, trailing off to laughter from the gallery.

Conditions at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, where Bankman-Fried has been held since Aug. 11, were a primary point of focus for Bankman-Fried’s other attorney, Mark Cohen.

Cohen deplored the prison’s lack of vegan options, stating “because he’s following his principles, [Bankman-Fried] is only now subsisting on a diet of bread and water.”

Cohen also said the prison had failed to provide the FTX founder with Adderall, a drug commonly prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Bankman-Fried was also running low on his supply of EMSAM, an antidepressant, according to his attorney.

Both attorneys argued that the combination of a lack of internet access and a lack of proper food and medication would hamper Bankman-Fried’s ability to put up a proper defense to what Cohen described as a particularly complicated set of charges.

Netburn said she would look into both issues after the hearing was adjourned, and that she hoped to resolve them by the end of the day.

Prosecutors have, for their part, asked the court to order Bankman-Fried's defense team to share more information about his proposed "advice-of-counsel" defense, including what he is claiming counsel advised. The judge set a Wednesday deadline for the defense to share more information.

Bankman-Fried's trial is set to kick off in early October. Prosecutors and defense attorneys filed proposed jury instructions late Monday, detailing how they believe the judge should explain the charges and allegations to jurors.

UPDATE (Aug. 22, 14:20 UTC): Adds additional detail from the hearing.

Edited by Aoyon Ashraf and Sheldon Reback.


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