In this courtroom sketch, FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried, wearing prison clothing, stands between his attorneys Mark Cohen and Christian Everdell in Manhattan federal court where he pleaded not guilty to seven criminal charges in a new indictment during a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in New York City, Aug. 22, 2023.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters
In a hearing in New York on Tuesday, lawyers for FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried expressed concerns over their client’s living conditions at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, where he’s being housed for alleged witness tampering.
Bankman-Fried’s legal team told a federal judge that the former crypto billionaire was “subsisting on bread and water” and “sometimes peanut butter,” because the jail can’t accommodate his vegan diet. They said he had only been offered the standard “flesh meals.”
Mark Cohen, an attorney on the case, added that Bankman-Fried had not received any doses of his prescribed medication Adderall, a treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, since being remanded to custody 11 days ago. Cohen said his client only had a “limited” and “dwindling” supply of Emsam, a transdermal patch for treating depression. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over the criminal trial, had told a jail to provide these prescribed medications to Bankman-Fried.
The hearing on Tuesday marked Bankman-Fried’s first time in court since he was sent to MDC earlier this month. He is due to be held there until his criminal trial begins in October. Bankman-Fried, donning a beige, jail-issued uniform and ankle shackles, pleaded not guilty to seven charges, including fraud and conspiracy, in a new superseding indictment. He previously pleaded not guilty to more indictments related to the collapse of his crypto empire.
An earlier request from Bankman-Fried’s lawyers included a letter from his psychiatrist, George Lerner, who has been treating the former FTX CEO since February 2019.
“Mr. Bankman-Fried has a history of Major Depressive Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” Lerner wrote.
Without his medication, Lerner warned, “Bankman-Fried will experience a return of his depression and ADHD symptoms and will be severely negatively impacted in his ability to assist in his own defense.”
Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn said she would look into these issues immediately and aim to have a solution by the end of the day.
Christian Everdell, another attorney on Bankman-Fried’s legal team, told Netburn there are “serious Sixth Amendment issues” involving Bankman-Fried not being able to prepare and participate in his defense with only six weeks until trial.
Bankman-Fried has thus far been unable to gain access to the internet and a laptop. His lawyers have argued that with their client in jail, he will not be able to properly prepare for his trial due to the mountainous amounts of discovery documents only accessible via a computer connected to the internet.
Judge Netburn said the defense would have to make trial preparation requests through Judge Kaplan.
On Monday, Judge Kaplan granted Bankman-Fried and his attorneys permission to work out of the courthouse at 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan, New York, immediately following Tuesday’s arraignment. Judge Netburn said she would address concerns over Bankman-Fried’s living conditions directly with the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons, which runs the jail.
Bankman-Fried had his bail revoked over his decision to leak private diary entries by his ex-girlfriend, Caroline Ellison, to The New York Times. In many of her personal writings, Ellison expressed self-doubt and feelings of stress in her role as the former head of Bankman-Fried’s failed crypto hedge fund, Alameda Research.