Sam Bankman-Fried Can Grill Former FTX Insiders on Drug Use in Court

While Bankman-Fried's lawyers tried again to get him out of jail just days ahead of his trial, the judge overseeing the case inched closer to resolving some outstanding issues.

AccessTimeIconSep 27, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 27, 2023 at 2:40 p.m. UTC

The judge, who has overseen the case for nearly a year now, inched closer to resolving outstanding issues ahead of trial. Last week, it was the Daubert motions regarding expert witnesses. Yesterday, it was resolving most of the motions in limine, addressing testimony and evidence questions.

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The defense team can cross-examine cooperating witnesses (read: former FTX insiders) about issues like privileged company information and their recreational drug use (though the attorneys need to notify the court beforehand).

The prosecution can also present evidence tied to FTX’s bankruptcy during the trial, over the defense’s objections. We’ll also see information about the FTT token and whether it was manipulated by other FTX insiders.

Separately, as reported Tuesday, Bankman-Fried is once again trying to get himself out of jail – this time starting Oct. 2 and through the duration of his trial. The FTX founder has been locked up since August after Judge Kaplan ruled he’d likely tried to tamper with witnesses. Earlier this month, his request to overturn that decision was denied, and last week, an appeals court refused to alter the ruling. But, in a Monday letter, lawyers for the disgraced crypto CEO asked a New York court to let him stay at a temporary residence in the city with a security guard anyway.

They also asked the judge to let Bankman-Fried travel to his attorneys’ workspaces during the trial itself because it was “exceedingly difficult” to prepare for the trial from jail. The security guard, who the lawyers say will remain with Bankman-Fried at the residence, will also make sure he doesn’t have any visitors or access to any computers, cell phones, the internet, television or any other electronic devices, the letter said.

It’s unclear if the judge will approve this last-ditch attempt to keep Bankman-Fried out of the slammer, even with the promise of a stringent gag order that’ll keep him from speaking to anyone other than his attorneys or family and stated willingness to accept any other conditions the court wants to impose. He set a deadline of 5:00 p.m. EDT today for the DOJ to weigh in on the application.

Defense attorneys have also requested that Bankman-Fried be allowed to wear a suit during the trial. During his last appearance before Judge Kaplan, he wore a prison uniform and was shackled.

We’re now less than a week out, so it’s helpful to quickly take stock of what we may expect.

The trial will start with voir dire (jury selection) on Oct. 3 (Tuesday) at 9:30 a.m. EDT. The DOJ anticipates this taking the better part of a day. White-collar attorneys believe it’ll take longer. Either way, opening statements will likely begin the day after a jury is seated. The DOJ also anticipates bringing some witnesses up to testify as soon as next week, with the court docket hinting that those witnesses may well be FTX insiders like Gary Wang, Caroline Ellison and Nishad Singh. The following Monday (Oct. 9) is a holiday so the trial – and this newsletter – will take a pause. We’ll be back on Oct. 10.

Edited by Nikhilesh De and Sandali Handagama.


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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.

Sandali Handagama

Sandali Handagama is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for policy and regulations, EMEA. She does not own any crypto.