Judge floats delay for FTX founder's fraud trial over evidence access

A US judge said on Wednesday he would consider postponing the October criminal fraud trial of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried after his lawyers complained they lacked adequate time to review millions of pages of evidence.

Lawyers for Bankman-Fried told the court he has not received hard drives containing documents to help prepare his defence since being jailed earlier this month. They requested the trial be delayed and that he be released back to his parent’s home for trial prep.

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan raised the prospect of a five-month postponement to early 2024 at a hearing but said any delay request would need to demonstrate a genuine obstacle rather than just volume of evidence.

Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to charges around the collapse last year of his now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Prosecutors accuse him of cheating investors and misusing customer deposits.

The 31-year-old was released on $250 million bail after his December extradition from the Bahamas. But Judge Kaplan jailed him earlier this month, citing witness tampering concerns while under house arrest.

His lawyers contend being in jail has prevented Bankman-Fried from adequately accessing evidence to help build his defence ahead of the scheduled October 3 trial start.

Prosecutors insist they have acted in good faith and turned over materials recently obtained from Google related to Bankman-Fried’s personal account. The judge agreed there was no deliberate misconduct by prosecutors.

Any trial delay could potentially push the high-profile FTX case into 2024, forcing victims to wait longer for a resolution. But Bankman-Fried’s team argues his right to mount a robust legal defence currently outweighs other factors.

The tense court battle illustrates the extremely high stakes for both sides in the prosecution of one of the biggest fraud cases in decades. Judge Kaplan must weigh both sides’ arguments carefully in assessing if a delay becomes unavoidable.