Lawyer wails that jailed crypto king is 'subsisting on bread and water', judge says she's 'reasonably confident' that's not the case

 Sam Bankman-Fried in TSM FTX jersey
Sam Bankman-Fried in TSM FTX jersey

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the collapsed multi-billion crypto exchange FTX, was jailed earlier this month until his trial date, following what a judge said was "probable cause to believe that the defendant has attempted to tamper with witnesses at least twice" while on bail. This related to Bankman-Fried sharing personal writing by his former partner and FTX colleague Caroline Ellison with a journalist: his bail was revoked on August 11, and he's been detained ever since in Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center.

Now Bankman-Fried's lawyer is saying that the conditions in prison are such that they're preventing the former crypto king and billionaire from preparing for his trial (thanks, Sky News). The claim came during a court hearing in which Bankman-Fried was charged with seven further criminal counts, all of which he pleaded not guilty to.

Bankman-Fried appeared in court wearing leg restraints and a prison outfit and his lawyer, Mark Cohen, said his requirements as a vegan were not being met: "Because he's following his principles, he is literally now subsisting on bread and water, which are the only things he’s served that he can eat, and sometimes peanut butter."

Cohen went on to complain that Bankman-Fried had not been provided with Adderall, an attention deficit hyperactive disorder drug, and his supplies of Ensam (a drug to treat depression) were low.

Judge Sarah Netburn said she would instruct the US Bureau of Prisons to address the issues with medication, and though unsure about vegan options was "reasonably confident" there were adequate vegetarian meal options. For its part the Bureau of Prisons said inmates had access to "appropriate" healthcare in the prison in question, which "provides nutritionally adequate meals" under a national menu that is analysed annually.

The bail revocation is likely because Ellison is going to be one of the key witnesses in this case: she is the former chief executive of Alameda Research, Bankman-Fried's trading firm, and has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the prosecution. The prosecution alleges Bankman-Fried used billions of customer money from FTX to prop up losses at Alameda, which he denies.

FTX was at its peak valued at $32 billion, before collapsing in November 2022 and sending shockwaves through the crypto industry. Bankman-Fried was subsequently arrested in the Bahamas in December that year, before being extradited to the US to face charges. How bad were things at FTX? The full picture is yet to emerge, but the same guy who managed Enron through its liquidation was put in charge of the FTX books, and in his initial findings said: "Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here."

Bankman-Fried has admitted to various failures in his stewardship of the firms involved, but has denied stealing any money and denies all charges. If convicted of all the prosecution's charges, Bankman-Fried could face over 100 years in prison.