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If FTX founder Sam Bakman-Fried isn’t allowed to leave jail five times a week, preparing for his criminal fraud trial in October will be unreasonably burdensome, his attorneys argued on Friday—a trial where he could throw FTX attorneys under the bus.
Bankman-Fried is currently confined to a detention center in Brooklyn, arriving in handcuffs weeks ago after his bail was revoked on witness tampering concerns. It was a drastic shift from his parents’ California home, where he had been on house arrest.
Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to a litany of criminal charges, including fraud and money laundering, that stem from his leadership as CEO of crypto exchange FTX before it collapsed last November.
Restrictions on who can visit Bankman-Fried and what he can access violate his Sixth Amendment rights to review the evidence being used against him, his attorneys claim. The twice-a-week schedule set at the Metropolitan DetentioN Center is untenable, his lawyers said, noting that those limits conflict with assurances from federal prosecutors that his access would be “very liberal.”
“The [current] plan is entirely inadequate given the extraordinarily voluminous discovery in this case,” they said. “Internet-enabled discovery review is the only viable way.”
Under Bankman-Fried’s current setup, his lawyers said he has “no hope” of reviewing 750,000 Slack messages recently produced in his case. On top of that, Bankman-Fried’s counsel has had to wait two to three hours for the FTX founder to be summoned on the two occasions they’ve gone to him—wasting valuable time.
As a remedy, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers requested their client have weekday access to a room at the Manhattan courthouse where his trial will take place, which would be set aside as a personal space for him to participate in preparing his legal defense. The accommodation is “critical” as Bankman-Fried’s high-profile trial looms, his lawyers said.
Bankman-Fried should be able to access over four terabytes of data gathered as part of the trial’s discovery process. The proposed setup would allow him to share materials via email and Google Drive, his attorneys said.
The request from Bankman-Fried’s lawyers came as federal prosecutors sought clarity with a filing of their own on Friday.
After Bankman-Fried’s layers signaled on Thursday that they would be pursuing a so-called advice-of-counsel defense, they have since refused to provide any other details, the prosecutor's office reports.
By putting forth an advice-of-counsel defense, Bankman-Fried would essentially argue that he did not intend to break the law because a lawyer had previously assured him his actions at the helm of FTX were okay, per Bloomberg Law. Doing so, however, effectively nullifies the attorney-client privacy privilege.
According to federal prosecutors, Bankman-Fried’s counsel has not disclosed which lawyers he consulted with as it relates to the defense, nor “indicate on what aspects of the case the defendant purportedly received legal advice.”
Government attorneys requested that the court order Bankman-Fried’s counsel to expand on its advice-of-counsel defense by Wednesday. Or, if Bankman-Fried’s attorneys decide not to comply, federal prosecutors asked that the tactic be precluded at trial.