Sam Bankman-Fried's Laptop Has a New Battery Now, DOJ Says

A joint letter filed Tuesday details the amount of access the FTX founder has to discovery material.

AccessTimeIconSep 5, 2023 at 11:20 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 6, 2023 at 2:47 p.m. UTC

Once one of the world's most powerful crypto executives, Sam Bankman-Fried is reduced to bickering with prosecutors over his access to a laptop computer.

The jailed founder of the collapsed FTX exchange has access to a laptop seven days a week and three hard drives with defense material at all times, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a letter Tuesday. The prosecutors were responding to a federal judge's order for a report on the conditions Bankman-Fried faces while detained at the Manhattan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Bankman-Fried's defense team has argued that they "need" him out of jail to work on his defense, telling Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is overseeing the case, that poor internet access and battery life are limiting the amount of work he is able to conduct on his own defense ahead of his criminal trial next month.

After a virtual hearing last week, Kaplan ordered the parties to put together a report on these issues. In Tuesday's filing, prosecutors said Bankman-Fried now has access to an air-gapped laptop for 11 hours a day on weekdays and 7.5 hours a day on weekends and holidays. Bankman-Fried also has access to hard drives with defense material at all times.

Twice a week, Bankman-Fried has access to an internet-enabled laptop. Defense attorneys had previously raised issues about the battery life and weak internet connection, but Tuesday's letter said the defense team had provided a new battery that "has approximately 8 hours battery life," and the internet speed over the course of a day ranged from 7.5 megabits per second (mbps) to 34 mbps.

The DOJ said this was "sufficient for most internet review activities" in its letter (a number of websites say 5 mbps is sufficient to stream video).

Bankman-Fried has been in jail since mid-August after Judge Kaplan revoked his bail, ruling that the FTX founder had engaged in multiple efforts to tamper with witnesses. His defense team has filed an appeal of the bail revocation, and argued that his detention was interfering with his Sixth Amendment right to work on his own defense.

Those claims were repeated in a further letter by Bankman-Fried's lawyer, Mark Cohen, published around the same time as this article.

"The Government has not devised a plan that works in practice," Cohen wrote, saying that recalls by prison staff had eaten into the time allotted for review. "Accordingly, we respectfully reiterate our request that the Court order Mr. Bankman-Fried’s temporary release."

Prosecutors had previously taken issue with the defense team's characterization of the technology issues, saying they were inconvenient but not debilitating.

UPDATE (Sept. 6, 08:30 UTC): Adds criticism from Bankman-Fried's lawyer in penultimate two paragraphs.

Edited by Bradley Keoun.


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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.