Sam Bankman-Fried could have FTX fraud trial delayed

Former FTX Chief Executive Bankman-Fried at a courthouse in New York

By Luc Cohen and Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge said on Wednesday he would consider delaying Sam Bankman-Fried's Oct. 3 criminal fraud trial, after the jailed FTX founder's lawyers complained he did not have enough time to review millions of pages of evidence to help build his case.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan raised the prospect of a five-month delay at a virtual hearing, after defense lawyers said officials at Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center had not provided Bankman-Fried with hard drives containing evidence to review.

Bankman-Fried, 31, has pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from the November 2022 collapse of his now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange.

Kaplan jailed him on Aug. 11, finding that the former billionaire likely tampered with witnesses while confined to his parents' Palo Alto, California, home on $250 million bail. Bankman-Fried's lawyers asked that he be returned to his parents' custody, so he can prepare adequately for trial.

"If the defendant in good conscience feels that he needs a postponement ... they can ask," Kaplan said.

The judge said he was unlikely to delay the trial based solely on the volume of evidence, and the defense would need to demonstrate a "genuine and unanticipated need."

He suggested possibly combining the trial with a previously scheduled March 11, 2024, trial on charges brought after Bankman-Fried's December 2022 extradition from the Bahamas, including bank fraud and foreign bribery conspiracies.

Mark Cohen, a lawyer for Bankman-Fried, said he understood that any request to delay the trial should be made in the next few days.

Kaplan earlier rejected a defense request to bar prosecutors from using at trial approximately 4 million pages of documents stored on Google that the prosecutors turned over last week.

Bankman-Fried's lawyers said their client wasn't being given time to sort through the deluge, depriving him of his constitutional right to a fair trial.

While prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan turned over the materials only recently because Google delayed in responding to a subpoena, Kaplan said the majority came from Bankman-Fried's personal Google account, meaning he had access before his bail was revoked.

"There is just no evidence at all that the government didn't act in good faith," and any suggestion that prosecutors missed deadlines or broke promises to the defense is "very seriously exaggerated," Kaplan said.

Danielle Kudla, a prosecutor, said her office had delivered a hard drive with evidence for Bankman-Fried to the MDC earlier on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen and Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)