Sunday, 1 October 2023

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Sam Bankman-Fried’s special treatment at a notorious Brooklyn jail: Lawyers say it’s complicated

Sam Bankman-Fried's special treatment at a notorious Brooklyn jail: Lawyers say it's complicated

Sam Bankman-Fried is not having a good time.

Since his arrest at the hands of Bahamian authorities in December, the FTX founder has experienced the highs and lows of U.S. criminal justice. After receiving favorable bond conditions that allowed him to live at his parents’ $3 million home in Palo Alto, a judge revoked his bail in August, sending him to one of the most notorious pre-trial detention centers in the country.

With the trial drawing an uncommon degree of public scrutiny, a prevailing question has lingered: Is Sam Bankman-Fried getting exceptional treatment because of his high-profile stature? Fortune spoke with former prosecutors and defense attorneys who said the answer is complicated, though they hope it will shed light on injustices that pervade the penal system.

“The more access he can get, the easier and better it will be for our other clients,” said Deirdre von Dornum, the attorney-in-charge of the Federal Defenders for the Eastern District of New York. “It’s very hard to give it to him and not to other people.”

The $250 million bond

FTX filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11, and Bankman-Fried was in handcuffs a month later—with every move from federal prosecutors now under a microscope. The first was the question of bail.

On Dec. 22, a judge released Bankman-Fried on a $250 million bond secured by his parents’ home in California, as well as two sureties, who turned out to be faculty members at Stanford University, where Bankman-Fried’s parents taught. He would be allowed to live at his parents’ home until the trial.

The move drew criticism, especially from the outspoken corner of the internet known as Crypto Twitter, with one prominent securities lawyer declaring that the conditions were “ludicrous” and a “joke.” Indeed, Bankman-Fried’s bail remained in place even as he appeared to violate the agreement on multiple occasions, including contacting potential witnesses and using a VPN to watch football.

Tim Howard, the former chief of the fraud and cybercrime unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, told Fortune that the bail conditions seemed normal.

“It’s exceptionally hard to get white-collar defendants detained, and especially folks with no criminal history,” he said.

Bankman-Fried agreed to waive extradition to return to the U.S. from the Bahamas. Howard told Fortune that he never authorized prosecutors whom he supervised in the white-collar…

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