DOJ Claims About Sam Bankman-Fried's Laptop Access Are 'Inaccurate', Defense Alleges

Prosecutors said they had fixed most of Bankman-Fried's laptop issues with the defense's help earlier this week. The defense continues to push for a "temporary release."

AccessTimeIconSep 9, 2023 at 1:49 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2023 at 3:01 p.m. UTC

Prosecutors are exaggerating the amount of access FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried really has to defense material, his attorneys said in a memo late Friday.

Bankman-Fried continues to lack decent internet access when produced to a cell block at the Southern District of New York courthouse, and has not had anywhere near the amount of air-gapped computer access that the Department of Justice has said he would have, the letter signed by defense attorney Mark Cohen said.

Bankman-Fried's defense team has tried to have him temporarily released or given greater computer access to work on his defense, saying his Sixth Amendment rights were being violated. Prosecutors have maintained that he has had access to defense materials after his bail was revoked last month on public safety grounds.

Earlier this week, the DOJ filed a letter saying Bankman-Fried now had access to multiple hard drives with defense material provided by the defense, an air-gapped laptop every day of the week and an internet-enabled laptop with a new battery provided by defense attorneys.

In response, defense attorneys wrote that the plan does not work in practice, leading to Judge Lewis Kaplan ordering Bankman-Fried's team to describe what, specifically, they found inaccurate.

Friday's letter detailed these issues, saying Bankman-Fried was only able to load a single document due to poor internet speeds after being produced to the courthouse on Wednesday and granted access to an internet-enabled computer.

"Effectively, Mr. Bankman-Fried had no access to the internet for the entire 5-hour period," the letter said. "... Despite the Government’s efforts, there does not appear to be a way to solve the internet access problem in the cellblock. That means that Mr. Bankman-Fried has no way to review and search documents the discovery database or the AWS database before trial. The defendant cannot prepare for trial with these kinds of limitations."

Bankman-Fried also doesn't have the full amount of time to use an air-gapped computer that prosecutors promised, Cohen said.

"Almost an entire month has passed since Mr. Bankman-Fried was remanded and we have lost that time to effectively prepare for trial," the letter said. "We therefore respectfully reiterate our request that the Court order Mr. Bankman-Fried’s temporary release."


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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.