Sam Bankman-Fried's Defense Renews Push for 'Temporary Release' Ahead of October Trial

The FTX founder's bond was revoked earlier this month, after a judge found he had violated his bail conditions on at least two occasions.

AccessTimeIconAug 28, 2023 at 3:19 a.m. UTC
Updated Aug 28, 2023 at 3:18 p.m. UTC

Attorneys for Sam Bankman-Fried have filed a new motion to secure his "temporary release" or at least have him meet with his defense team five days a week, citing his right to help prepare his defense.

The defense team filed a motion Friday arguing that Bankman-Fried's right to work on his own defense is being infringed by his being in jail, because the documents he needs to be able to review are only accessible online.

"We do not believe that anything short of temporary release will properly address these problems and safeguard Mr. Bankman-Fried’s right to participate in his own defense," a Friday letter authored by defense attorney Christian Everdell said. "At the very least, however, we respectfully request that the Court reconsider its previous decision and order the Marshals to produce Mr. Bankman-Fried to the proffer rooms at 500 Pearl Street five days a week, where defense counsel can provide him with an internet-enabled computer that will permit him to review, edit, and share documents and work product with his attorneys. Defense counsel will be present with Mr. Bankman-Fried the entire time and will take back the laptop at the end of the session."

The FTX founder's bond was revoked earlier this month, after Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is overseeing the case, ruled that Bankman-Fried had attempted to tamper with witnesses at least twice, and so violated his bail conditions. His attorneys announced an appeal and tried to keep Bankman-Fried out of custody in the same hearing where where Judge Kaplan ordered him remanded, before raising the issue before Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn last week.

At issue, they say, is "Bankman-Fried’s Sixth Amendment right to participate in preparing his defense and his right to receive effective assistance of counsel."

He needs a laptop, Friday's letter said, which can access the internet in order to review the millions of documents produced during discovery and add to a spreadsheet organizing key items.

Everdell made a similar argument during Bankman-Fried's most recent arraignment, saying "there is no way for him to effectively communicate his work product, his analyses to us."

While Bankman-Fried has access to a laptop while he's at the federal courthouse in Manhattan, he's limited to six hours a day, two days a week (at Judge Kaplan's direction) – substantially less than the "80-100 hours a week" he was putting in prior to being sent to jail. The laptop itself has a limited battery and the internet access is weak, Friday's letter added. He has no internet or laptop access while in the Metropolitan Detention Center.

"Bankman-Fried does not have access to any discovery or work product at the MDC and has not had any such access since he was detained two weeks ago," the letter said. "At the Government’s invitation, we have been sending hard drives to Mr. Bankman-Fried with selected documents and work product for him to review at the MDC. But Mr. Bankman-Fried does not have a laptop at the MDC that he can use to review them. This means that there is almost nothing Mr. Bankman-Fried can do at the MDC to prepare for trial."

The defense team also took issue with the Department of Justice's ongoing discovery productions, saying prosecutors shared more than 4 million new pages of documents last week. They want the judge to order that any discovery produced after July 1 be blocked, saying there isn't enough time to review them all prior to trial.

The judge ordered prosecutors to respond to the letter, as well as another earlier letter outlining one of Bankman-Fried's planned defenses, by Tuesday, August 29, and scheduled a virtual hearing on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. ET on the discovery issues. Bankman-Fried's trial on seven different charges, including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities and commodities fraud, is currently scheduled to begin in early October.

Edited by Parikshit Mishra.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.