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Sam Bankman-Fried Will Remain in Jail Throughout Trial, Judge Says He May Face ‘Very Long Sentence’

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Sam Bankman-Fried will remain in jail through his trial, He Could Face 'Very Long Sentence', Judge Says
Sam Bankman-Fried will remain in jail through his trial, He Could Face 'Very Long Sentence', Judge Says

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FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) will remain in jail throughout his trial on charges of fraud and conspiracy that starts on Tuesday. 

Judge Lewis Kaplan denied a motion on Sept. 28 that requested his temporary release, saying he wasn’t convinced by defence arguments that Bankman-Fried would have ”almost no time” with his lawyers to prepare for the case.

“They’re not going in cold here,” he said, adding that he also wasn’t sure Bankman-Fried didn’t represent a flight risk if released.

“Your client could be looking at a very long sentence,” he said. “If things look bleak … if he had that opportunity, maybe he would seek to flee.”

Mark Cohen, Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, argued that there was no evidence to suggest his client would flee. He pointed out that Bankman-Fried had voluntarily consented to extradition from the Bahamas to the United States after his December 2022 arrest.

Bankman-Fried, who has pleaded not guilty to several counts of fraud and conspiracy related to FTX’s collapse, had sought temporary release to facilitate better communication with his legal team. His lawyers had argued that they needed sufficient access to their client to prepare for the trial, as they found it challenging to adequately review materials and communicate with him due to the restrictions on access while in jail.

In response to these concerns, Kaplan acknowledged the challenges and agreed to arrange for Bankman-Fried to arrive at court at 7 a.m. on most trial days, allowing him several hours to meet with his legal team before the proceedings begin.

Prosecutors in the case assert that Bankman-Fried misappropriated billions of dollars in FTX customer deposits to cover losses at Alameda Research, a crypto-focused hedge fund under his control.

They opposed Bankman-Fried’s request for temporary release, claiming that he had ample time to prepare for trial during the time he spent on bail at his parents’ California home. They also emphasized that he had been given accommodation facilities beyond what most detainees receive.

Witness Tampering Allegations

Bankman-Fried’s legal troubles intensified when his bail was revoked and he was jailed on August 11th after allegations of witness tampering, including sharing the private writings of former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison with a New York Times reporter. His appeal for release was also denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Ellison, who had a romantic relationship with Bankman-Fried, is one of three former associates who have pleaded guilty to fraud and are set to testify against him in court, along with former FTX executives Gary Wang and Nishad Singh. 

Courtroom Accommodations for Bankman-Fried 

While Bankman-Fried’s request for temporary release was denied, Judge Kaplan approved some accommodations for him during the trial. These include the ability to change into a suit each morning and the use of an internet-disabled laptop in the courtroom for note-taking purposes.

The trial is expected to last up to six weeks. It will address seven charges related to the misuse of customer funds. Additionally, a second trial is scheduled for March next year, in which Bankman-Fried will face five more charges. Bankman-Fried is pleading not guilty to all counts. 

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