Bankman-Fried’s lawyers blast trial prep time as ‘entirely inadequate’

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lawyers for Sam Bankman-Fried on Friday rejected as “entirely inadequate” the U.S. government’s plan for letting the jailed founder of the collapsed FTX cryptocurrency exchange prepare for his October fraud trial.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, the lawyers said giving Bankman-Fried just two days a week, without a dedicated computer, to review the “extraordinary volume” of evidence violated his Sixth Amendment constitutional right to effective counsel and aid his defense.

They said it also undermined Kaplan’s expectation that Bankman-Fried would get at least nine hours a day to review evidence, and left their client no way to share materials with them through Google Docs or email.

“This is entirely inadequate and Mr. Bankman-Fried will not be able to meaningfully participate in his defense, as is his right under the Sixth Amendment,” the lawyers said.

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers asked that he be allowed to meet with them five days a week at the Manhattan federal courthouse in preparation for the Oct. 2 trial. He is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan declined comment.

Prosecutors had in a letter earlier Friday told Kaplan that federal marshals had offered “extraordinary accommodations” at the Brooklyn jail, reflecting the volume of materials and the trial schedule.

Both letters redacted some of the proposed accommodations, which prosecutors said was needed because of security concerns.

Prosecutors have accused Bankman-Fried of stealing billions of dollars from FTX customers to prop up a separate hedge fund, conduct risky trades, buy property and make political donations.

The 31-year-old former billionaire has pleaded not guilty. He will be arraigned on Aug. 22 on the most recent version of his indictment, which has seven fraud and conspiracy charges.

Kaplan revoked Bankman-Fried’s bail on Aug. 11, finding probable cause to believe Bankman-Fried broke the law by trying to influence witnesses who are expected to testify against him.

Bankman-Fried had been under house arrest at his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California.

The Brooklyn jail, with about 1,549 inmates, has been plagued by conditions that public defenders have called “inhumane.”

A federal judge suggested in 2021 that the jail and a now-closed federal jail in Manhattan were “run by morons.”

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers previously represented Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, who complained for months that she could not prepare effectively in the Brooklyn jail for her sex trafficking trial.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)