Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, has been granted sufficient access to a laptop to review discovery materials related to the criminal case brought against him, claims the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
SBF, as the former FTX chief is otherwise known, is currently confined at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), preparing for a trial scheduled for early October. He faces charges including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities and commodities fraud.
In response to a federal judge’s order for a report on the conditions Bankman-Fried is facing during his detention, prosecutors stated that the defendant has access to an air-gapped laptop in a visiting room during specific hours on weekdays and weekends.
“Since August 31, 2023, the defendant has had the ability to review electronic discovery at the MDC with an air-gapped laptop that is available in the legal visiting room 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday through Sunday and holidays,” reads the letter filed on Tuesday.
Last month, SBF’s defense argued that the FTX founder is the only one who has complete knowledge of the enormous amount of information related to the criminal case and therefore—in order to be properly prepared for the trial—he needs access to essential online documents.
The prosecutors further claimed that up to this point, there have been no reported problems or issues with the functionality of the USB ports or the software applications that have been used.
Additionally, the letter said that in response to the defense counsel’s request, the MDC has allowed SBF to use a second air-gapped laptop “for increased convenience.”
According to the DOJ, three internet speed tests—conducted at varying times throughout the day in the cell block area where Bankman-Fried has access to the internet-enabled laptop—showed that during the morning and early afternoon, the download transfer rate was recorded at 34 Mbps.
During the late afternoon, the download transfer rate was recorded at 7.5 Mbps, which, as the prosecutors asserts, is “sufficient for most internet review activities.”
The letter added that “the internet-enabled laptop has also been updated with a new 9-cell battery provided by defense counsel that has approximately 8 hours battery life.”
Defense hits back
In response to the prosecutors’ claims, Bankman-Fried’s legal team, represented by Cohen and Gresser LLP, argued that, even under the current setup, he “will not have a meaningful opportunity to prepare his defense.”
The lawyers also pointed to a specific incident on September 1, where the MDC staff instructed Bankman-Fried to leave the visitation area early, resulting in the loss of about 4.5 hours of valuable work time for him.
“Losing 4 hours per day (20 hours per week), is not what the Government promised and is not workable,” said the defense.
SBF’s legal counsel further stated that the process of communicating with their client is still too “slow and cumbersome” and their visits “take away some of the time that Mr. Bankman-Fried is able to use for discovery review.”
To that end, the defense reiterated their request for Bankman-Fried’s temporary release, saying that “the Government has not devised a plan that works in practice.”