A Manhattan federal judge known for swift decisions and a no-nonsense demeanor was assigned on Tuesday to the Sam Bankman-Fried cryptocurrency case.
The case was relegated to Judge Lewis A Kaplan after the judge originally assigned recused herself because her husband worked for a law firm that did work related to FTX, Bankman-Fried’s collapsed crypto exchange.
Kaplan is now presiding over a civil case brought by the former Elle magazine advice columnist E Jean Carroll against Donald Trump. Carroll says Trump raped her in the dressing room of a Manhattan luxury department store in 1995 or 1996. Trump denies the accusation. A trial is set for April.
Kaplan also presided over sex abuse claims by an American woman against Prince Andrew before the two sides settled earlier this year, with Andrew declaring that he never meant to malign the woman’s character and agreeing to donate to her charity. Before the settlement, Kaplan refused Andrew’s request to toss the lawsuit.
Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas two weeks ago and brought to the US last week to face charges that he cheated investors and looted customer deposits on his trading platform.
On Thursday he was freed on a $250m (£208m) personal recognizance bond, to live with his parents in Palo Alto, California, with an electronic monitoring bracelet attached.
Kaplan, 78, has held senior status in Manhattan federal court for more than a decade. He was nominated to the bench by Bill Clinton in 1994.
He has overseen high-profile trials and several notable cases in the financial world, including what authorities described as the first federal bitcoin securities fraud prosecution. Kaplan sentenced the defendant to 18 months in prison.
In 2014, he blocked US courts from being used to collect a $9bn (£7bn) Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron for rainforest damage, saying lawyers in the case poisoned an honorable quest with illegal and wrongful conduct.
In 2012, he delayed his acceptance of a guilty plea by a Utah banker, ordering prosecutors to explain why they were letting the banker plead guilty to a misdemeanor bank gambling charge rather than a felony.
Kaplan has been known to become irritable with lawyers on all sides.
In 1997, he blasted the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for not acting fast enough in an asylum case.
“This is about as expedited as a glacier going uphill,” he snapped.
Calling the agency’s behavior “absolutely outrageous”, he added: “The INS has in the three years I’ve been on the bench acquitted itself in disastrous fashion more than once, but this one takes the cake and I’m not going to stand for it much longer.”
In 2000, Kaplan ruled in favor of the motion picture industry, giving it legal protection to protect DVDs from being copied on computers.
“Computer code is not purely expressive any more than the assassination of a political figure is purely a political statement,” he said.
Most recently, Kaplan presided over the civil trial of Kevin Spacey after another actor accused him of trying to molest him in his apartment after a party when he was 14 and Spacey was 26. A jury sided with Spacey, finding that Anthony Rapp had not proven his case.
In 2019, Kaplan sentenced three men to prison after they were convicted in a college basketball scandal in which a former Adidas executive and two others paid families to persuade top recruits to play for schools sponsored by the shoemaker.
Nearly a dozen years ago, Kaplan sentenced Ahmed Ghailani, a former detainee in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, to life in prison. Kaplan presided over a trial in which Ghailani was convicted of conspiring to destroy US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998. Americans were among 224 people killed in the attacks.
In 2015, Kaplan sentenced Adel Abdul Bary, an Egyptian lawyer, to 25 years in prison for his role in the attacks on the US embassies.
In 2014, Kaplan sentenced Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, to life in prison for serving as al-Qaida’s mouthpiece after the 11 September terror attacks.
Kaplan also has presided over sentence reduction efforts by men convicted in the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people and injured more than 1,000.