The criminal trial of Sam Bankman-Fried will continue as scheduled, even after lawyers for the former FTX CEO asked for an adjournment, given their client’s lack of access to prescribed medicine.
In a late-night appeal to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan on Sunday, attorneys representing Bankman-Fried requested that he be given his 12-hour extended-release 20mg dose of Adderall on Monday before being taken to the courthouse for the trial, which resumed at 9:30 a.m. They argued that the defendant urgently needs his long-release Adderall, otherwise, he would need to take some time off from the trial, which could put the former crypto billionaire in prison for the rest of his life.
Attorney Mark Cohen’s letter to Kaplan adds that Bankman-Fried has “not been able to concentrate at the level he ordinarily would” without his prescribed medication.
“Bankman-Fried has been doing his best to remain focused during the trial for the past two weeks, despite not having his prescribed dose of Adderall during trial hours,” the letter to the court said.
After the jury exited Monday, Kaplan addressed the issue, saying that he got notice that the extended-release Adderall that was requested would not be available until Thursday. The judge added that he had not observed a problem with Bankman-Fried in court and was inclined to proceed as planned. He did acknowledge that he was not a medical professional but noted that he had not received any updated medical opinions on the matter. “I can’t have lawyers giving drugs to people on trial,” he said.
Cohen asked for an adjournment until Thursday but was denied. Without a firm resolution to the matter, the trial will continue with a cross-examination of former FTX executive Nishad Singh at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Cohen said Bankman-Fried’s decision on whether to testify hinges on the defendant’s access to a medicine used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
“However, as we approach the defense case and the critical decision of whether Mr. Bankman-Fried will testify, the defense has a growing concern that because of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s lack of access to Adderall he has not been able to concentrate at the level he ordinarily would and that he will not be able to meaningfully participate in the presentation of the defense case,” Cohen wrote.
Since being remanded to custody in August over alleged witness tampering involving his ex-girlfriend and the government’s star witness, Caroline Ellison, the former FTX chief has been trying to get access to two different prescriptions.
In a previous letter to the court, Cohen wrote that “for over five years Mr. Bankman-Fried has been prescribed Emsam 9mg/24 hrs transdermal patch for the treatment of depression” and that “for the past three years, Mr. Bankman-Fried has been prescribed Adderall 10mg tablets, 3-4x/day for the treatment of ADHD.”
So far, multiple attempts at getting regular access to his medication, despite cooperation from the government, have proved futile.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Court and the Government to find a way to address these issues,” Cohen wrote. “The defense has also attempted to resolve this matter with the BOP, but we have received no response to numerous emails and voice messages,” he said.
Bankman-Fried’s counsel had asked that if he is still unable to gain access to his prescriptions or if the medicine is ineffective Monday, that court be adjourned on Tuesday to “find a solution that will work for the remainder of the trial.”
A previous request for medications made in August included a letter from his psychiatrist, George Lerner, who has been treating the former FTX CEO since February 2019.
“Mr. Bankman-Fried has a history of Major Depressive Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” Lerner wrote.
ADHD is among the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Bankman-Fried told a Bahamas judge in December that he took medication to treat depression and ADHD.
Lerner added in his letter that Bankman-Fried had tried other antidepressants but said they were ineffective for his symptoms.
“Additionally, there have been times when Mr. Bankman-Fried did not have access to the Emsam patch (typically when travelling/abroad) and exhibited symptoms of depression, including lethargy, anhedonia, low motivation, and increased ruminations,” Lerner wrote.
Without his medication, Lerner warned the judge, “Bankman-Fried will experience a return of his depression and ADHD symptoms and will be severely negatively impacted in his ability to assist in his own defense.”
For nearly a year, there’s been a nationwide shortage of Adderall, the popular stimulant used to treat ADHD. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has called on drug manufacturers to increase production.