U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan has denied the request for temporary release from jail for Sam Bankman-Fried, the indicted cryptocurrency mogul facing fraud and money laundering charges. During a hearing Thursday, Judge Kaplan warned Bankman-Fried’s attorneys that if convicted, he “could be looking at a very long sentence.” The severity of Bankman-Fried’s legal trouble has been underscored since the collapse of crypto exchange FTX.
Bankman-Fried’s trial is set to begin in October, and his request for release was aimed at allowing him to work more closely with his attorneys on his defense. However, Judge Kaplan argued that Bankman-Fried posed a flight risk, stating, “if things begin to look bleak… maybe the time would come when he would seek to flee.” Bankman-Fried’s attorney, Mark Cohen, countered by highlighting that there was no evidence to suggest his client would attempt to flee, pointing out that Bankman-Fried had voluntarily consented to extradition from the Bahamas to the U.S. after his arrest in December.
Previously, Bankman-Fried had been released from custody pre-trial and allowed to stay at his parent’s multimillion-dollar home in Palo Alto. However, after violating his bail conditions by providing information to the New York Times, which the court deemed as witness tampering, Judge Kaplan ordered him to return to jail and await his trial there.
Although Judge Kaplan denied Bankman-Fried’s release, he did grant some concessions. Bankman-Fried will be allowed to leave jail and come to the courthouse early at 7 a.m. most days of the trial to confer with his counsel. Additionally, he will be permitted to wear a suit during the trial instead of a jail uniform and use a laptop without internet access to take notes.
Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of FTX, is set to face trial in October over allegations related to the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange. The charges against him include wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, and campaign finance law conspiracy. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty and consistently maintained that the collapse of FTX and its sister firm Alameda was due to mistakes rather than illegal conduct. The allegations involve claims that Bankman-Fried directed customers’ money into Alameda and then to FTX executives’ personal bank accounts, with those executives allegedly making political contributions to gain political influence.
The trial, expected to last up to six weeks, will be closely watched both nationally and internationally.