Jailed FTX founder Bankman-Fried to return to court for new plea

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, is due back in court on Tuesday for the first time since a U.S. judge revoked his bail and sent him to jail, and is expected to plead not guilty to a new indictment alleging fraud and conspiracy charges.

The 31-year-old former billionaire has been behind bars since Aug. 11, when U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan revoked his bail for allegedly tampering with witnesses at least twice.

Bankman-Fried, who pleaded not guilty to three earlier indictments, is expected to be transported to Manhattan federal court from Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, which has gained infamy for conditions that public defenders have called “inhumane.” His lawyers have asked Kaplan to let him out five days a week to review evidence at the courthouse, arguing he would otherwise be unable to prepare adequately for his Oct. 2 trial.

Kaplan said in a written order he would allow Bankman-Fried to meet with his lawyers in the courthouse with an internet-enabled laptop for around six-and-a-half hours on Tuesday.

Bankman-Fried was jailed after sharing the personal writings of his former romantic partner and colleague, Caroline Ellison, with a New York Times reporter.

Ellison, who served as chief executive officer of Bankman-Fried’s hedge fund Alameda Research, is one of three former members of his inner circle who have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against him at trial.

Prosecutors say Bankman-Fried stole billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to plug losses at Alameda, purchase lavish real estate, and donate more than $100 million to U.S. political campaigns in a bid to promote crypto-friendly legislation.

Bankman-Fried has acknowledged risk management failures at FTX but denied stealing funds.

Lawyers for Bankman-Fried disclosed that he also may assert an advice-of-counsel defense at trial, prosecutors said in court papers on Friday. The defendant has previously said advice from Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West on conduct such as FTX’s use of disappearing messages led him to believe his activity was above-board.

Fenwick & West declined to comment.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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