The potential testimony of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried in his trial on federal fraud charges related to the collapse of his cryptocurrency empire may depend on whether the ex-billionaire’s dosage of Adderall is sufficient to help him maintain his focus during long days in court.
Lawyers for Bankman-Fried, who has had a prescription for Adderall to treat attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) for five years, say that he has not been getting his prescribed dose of the medication and that it is wearing off in the morning on trial days. They wrote in a filing on Sunday, "The defense has 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."
To help him maintain his focus throughout the day in court, his defense team has secured an extended-release form of Adderall that they are hoping will keep the former crypto king focused throughout the day. Bankman-Fried received his extended-release Adderall prescription for the first time during his trial on Thursday, the 12th day of the trial.
Elliot Felig, a defense attorney and former prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, told FOX Business that by raising concerns about Bankman-Fried’s prescription, his defense team could be setting the stage for a potential appeal on those grounds.
"He has a Sixth Amendment right to participate in his own defense, to play a meaningful role in his defense, and it’s likely that they’re setting up a potential issue on appeal to argue that he was not able to meaningfully participate in his defense because of the lack of access to the medication," Felig said.
Felig said that the defense team has to raise this issue during the trial if they want to preserve it as a potential item for appeal down the road. He added that to ensure Bankman-Fried’s new Adderall regimen is keeping him sufficiently focused to testify, the judge might speak to him without the jury in the room to put that on the record for the possible future reference of an appellate court.
"What I could see happening is the judge may ask him – outside the presence of the jury – a quick series of questions to make sure that he knows up from down, down from up. The judge will ask these questions to make sure that he can follow questions, to make sure that he can have a meaningful conversation," Felig said.
Andrew Stoltmann, an attorney with expertise in securities law, told FOX Business, "It might be a legitimate issue the defense has, but it almost seems like a smokescreen. I mean this is a guy with a Ph.D. from MIT in physics and a minor in mathematics. If he has problems concentrating for a whole day, I just find that argument somewhat specious."
Stoltmann said that he thinks it is unlikely a medication-related appeal would be fruitful and noted that given the high-profile nature of the trial and how expensive it is, the judge will want to ensure the case does not have to be re-tried regardless of what the jury decides.
Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over the fraud trial in Manhattan federal court, has told the jury that they will not finish later than Nov. 3.
Bankman-Fried’s trial is scheduled to resume next Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern.
FOX Business’ Kelly O’Grady and Justin Freiman and Reuters contributed to this report.