Judge Denies Sam Bankman-Fried's Bid for Release From Jail Ahead of Trial

Bankman-Fried will go on trial next month.

AccessTimeIconSep 12, 2023 at 8:58 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2023 at 3:06 p.m. UTC

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried will have to continue preparing his defense from behind bars after a U.S. federal judge refused his motion for a temporary release.

Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled Tuesday that Bankman-Fried was in a situation of his own making in refuting the onetime FTX CEO's multiple motions for a pretrial release. Bankman-Fried was released on bond after his arrest, but the Southern District of New York judge revoked it last month after finding that the defendant had tried to interfere with witnesses on at least two occasions.

Mark Cohen and Christian Everdell, two of Bankman-Fried's attorneys, argued in both written submissions and a virtual hearing that he needed to be able to access discovery materials largely only accessible through online databases and contribute to a shared document detailing his work.

Prosecutors and the defense attorneys have gone back and forth over Bankman-Fried's level of access over the past few weeks, with the Department of Justice arguing that he has access to laptops and hard drives on a daily basis and the internet twice a week. The defense has argued that this level of access is unacceptable and was seriously hampering his effort to work on his defense.

The judge was unconvinced, writing that neither Bankman-Fried nor any other defendant has a right to inspect every piece of discovery that is produced.

"Defendant is represented by a substantial team of extremely able retained lawyers," he wrote.

He was also unconvinced by arguments that Bankman-Fried needs more time per day to work on his defense.

The prosecution and defense both requested a September or October trial date, which the judge granted. While the defense team had a chance to request a postponement of the trial date, which is currently set to begin Oct. 3, no such request was made, the judge added.

"Whatever time pressure defendant now claims to face given the imminence of the trial date and the claimed limitations of his access to [electronically stored discovery and other material] while incarcerated largely would be of his own making," the judge ruled.

The defense can make "a further application on a more factually grounded and persuasive showing," he wrote at the end of his ruling.

The defense team did appeal Judge Kaplan's revocation of Bankman-Fried's bail last month. A three-judge panel from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will review it, though no hearing has yet been scheduled.

UPDATE (Sept. 12, 2023, 21:15 UTC): Adds additional detail.


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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.

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