With just over a month to go until Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial begins, the judge in charge of the case appears to be losing patience with the FTX founder’s defense team. During Wednesday’s hearing, he rebuked Bankman-Fried’s attorneys, saying their concerns about the mounting evidence presented by prosecutors were “grossly overblown.”
Negotiations between the two sides have been escalating since mid-August, when Southern District of New York Judge Lewis Kaplan revoked Bankman-Fried’s bail and sent the defendant to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
Since then, his lawyers have argued that Bankman-Fried did not have adequate access to the internet or the millions of pages of evidence prosecutors presented, meaning he could not properly prepare for his defense. They pushed for various solutions, including the use of a laptop and the temporary release of Bankman Freed, arguing he had to put up with spotty internet service and use a laptop with poor battery life. His lawyers also argued that none of the evidence prosecutors have presented in recent weeks should have been admissible in the October trial.
Kaplan’s frustrations are not new, perhaps peaking in August when the defendant leaked excerpts from a private diary to former FTX executive, star witness and SBF ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison. New York Times. As Caplan noted during the hearing, Bankman-Fried received special treatment when his bail was revoked while he was living with his parents at their Palo Alto home.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Kaplan rejected a request by Bankman-Fried’s attorneys to exclude any evidence presented in recent weeks because they did not have time to review it. He noted that Bankman-Fried had “unrestricted” access to his parents’ home before his Aug. 11 detention. Prosecutors also noted that Bankman-Fried’s legal team, including staff, numbered nearly a dozen people.
“There is nothing to suggest that the government is not acting in good faith,” Kaplan said.
If Bankman-Fried remains concerned about the upcoming trial date — Oct. 3, which both parties have agreed to — Kaplan strongly urged defense attorneys to file the request by the end of the week. The deadline to ask a jury to participate in a trial is Sept. 7, so asking for a delay later would be a waste of resources, although the judge did not rule that out. He also made it clear that even if a delay was requested, it would not necessarily be granted, and that Bankman-Fried’s attorneys would need to demonstrate that more time was needed beyond reviewing the latest filings.
“There must be more meat on those bones,” he said.
Prosecutors and defense teams will have to continue to study the conditions of Bankman-Fried’s detention, including his access to lawyers and internet use, as his team continues to call for a provisional release. Kaplan called on both sides to submit a sweeping report by Tuesday and ended the hearing with a wink.
“I wish everyone a great weekend,” he said, “but it’s rubbing salt in the wound.”