FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried, Lawyers ‘Need’ to Get Him Out of Jail Before Trial

The criminal defense team for Sam Bankman-Fred failed to elicit any major concessions Wednesday in a hearing focused on alleged difficulties preparing for his October trial from inside a Brooklyn prison.

His lawyers argued that the former FTX CEO, who was sent to New York City’s Metropolitan Detention Center after his bail was revoked earlier this month, has limited Internet access and substandard laptop technical specifications to sift through the mountain of pre-trial evidence. They pressed for their client’s release from prison to prepare his defense.

“It’s just the fact that we haven’t been able to make effective use of our clients’ time,” said Christian Everdale, one of Bankman Fried’s attorneys. “We’ve reached this point, and we need” his release.

But the federal judge overseeing his case, Judge Louis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York, was not convinced on Wednesday and refused to grant them the largest request. Instead, he has given the parties until next Tuesday to brief him on conditions at the MDC facility in Brooklyn so he can decide whether to grant Bankman-Fried temporary release.

The relatively quick hearing, which was held via videoconference, saw Judge Kaplan deny other key defense motions. When they told him that the government was dumping millions of discovery documents weeks before trial—at a time when their detained client could not actually review the material—he refused their request to withhold all documents filed after July 1.

Judge Kaplan said the defense could request a delay in the start of the trial if it wanted more time for review, although there was no guarantee it would grant that request. However, they will have to do so before September 7, when the jury selection process will begin. “I simply put all the cards on the table,” he said. Earlier in the hearing, the defense said it was not interested in the delay.

While calling the defense, Judge Kaplan and the prosecution took turns on the conditions in the MDC, including the battery life of Bankman Fried’s laptop and Internet access. The government said it was making every effort to fix the technical dilemmas faced by Bankman Fried, but the defense responded, arguing that “their solutions don’t work in practice”.

At one point, Judge Kaplan suggested fixing Bankman Fried’s battery problems (his laptop computer couldn’t hold a charge) with a seemingly obvious solution: “It’s called an extension cord.” But federal prosecutors said the Bureau of Prisons would not allow an extension cord into the prison for security and safety reasons.

Bankman Fried was jailed in early August for attempting to tamper with witnesses. At the time, Judge Kaplan said the 31-year-old defendant was “willing to risk crossing the line” and set bail, an unusual step in criminal proceedings. He has been in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn ever since.

Last Friday, his lawyer filed a motion asking for temporary release before trial or, alternatively, to allow Bankman-Fried to meet with his defense team five days a week, arguing that it is his constitutional right to a fair trial.

His defense team said that his presence in prison would conflict with his “right to participate in his own defence.” They also required access to a laptop and the Internet to review documents before trial. In filings leading up to the hearing, defense attorney Christian Everdale argued that the laptop computer currently provided did not have a battery powerful enough to last through the entire review hearing, and that the internet connection was too weak to be of much use.

Prosecutors said they shared information about the laptop battery with defense attorneys to allow them to purchase a replacement, saying the government purchase would take too long. Assistant US Attorney Danielle Kudla told the judge that the internet issues would be more difficult to solve because the cell block was not designed to allow 5G internet access.

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