SBF getting bail is not a ‘good deal’

The SBF trial is set for October 2023. I think this is too long and it should be sooner. If the evidence exists to convict, then why delay so long? But this hardly constitutes a get-out-of-jail card. If anything, I would think he would want to get it over with than have to delay the inevitable.

I came upon this blog post by Ken White How Did Sam Bankman-Fried Get Bail?, who says SBF got a ‘good deal’:

First, because Sam Bankman-Fried broke the law by (allegedly) stealing billions of dollars instead of by being paid a hundred bucks to transport half a key of black tar heroin, there was no presumption he should be detained. That reflects society’s values. Moreover, rich people are more easily able to satisfy elaborate bail conditions. They have stable families in whose homes they can live, their families can post substantial home equity, they can afford the cost of home monitoring,

Is that an awfully good deal for Bankman-Fried? Yes. For someone accused of a historically huge multi-billion-dollar fraud, who had to be extradited to the U.S., who likely has access to resources that could help him flee, it’s an extremely good deal, especially the part that allowed him to be released immediately before his parents posted the property or he got two more sureties.

A good deal? How is bail a ‘deal’? A deal in the context of criminal law means a lesser sentence in exchange for concessions by the accused. He’s still almost certainly going to prison, however long that is. By the author’s logic, he should be so happy he gets 6-12 months or so to live a semi-normal life under intense supervision and restriction of movement before he likely gets sent away forever like Madoff, Alan Stanford, and many others (no parole in the feds). Madoff got bail, still died in prison 13 years into a 150-year sentence. What a lucky guy.

Being rich hardly means favoritism in the sense of avoiding justice. Pundits keeps making this argument that wealthy (or at least formerly wealthy in the case of SBF) white-collar defendants get favoritism, have special connections, or can use their wealth to somehow evade justice. If this were true, SBF would still be chilling in the Bahamas, having used his wealth to pay off prosecutors in the US or the Bahamian government. But he didn’t.

A lot has changed since the 90s. The understandable outrage and lasting cloud over the Clinton legacy over his pardoning Marc Rich put an end to that. [Although Trump would go on to pardon Sholam Weiss, who was serving a life sentence for fraud, a possibly even more contemptible figure than Marc Rich, among others who were pardoned including war criminals, which somehow garnered much less media attention, so I think the ‘left’ may have a point that the left-media bias is not always as bad as assumed by the ‘right’ given that Trump’s bad pardons got much less media coverage compared to Clinton’s bad pardons.]

It used to be that the outrage was directed at white collar criminals getting slaps on the wrist at the sentencing stage. In the 80s this was a valid complaint. It was uncommon for white collar criminals to serve more than 10 years, even for substantial, intricate frauds, like in the case of Barry Minkow of the $250 million ZZZZ Best fraud, which collapsed in 1987. He was convicted and sentenced in 1988 to 25 years for “fifty-four counts of racketeering, securities fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, mail fraud, tax evasion and bank fraud,” but was paroled in 1995. Eddie Antar of the $145 million ‘Crazy Eddie’ fraud was only sentenced to 7 years, in 1997.

This would never happen today: Parole for federal crimes was abolished in 1984 (somehow Minkow was paroled despite the grandfather clause only being extended to convictions before Nov 1. 1987 and having no medical exemptions; he was convicted in 1988), and much longer sentences. The major accounting scandals of the early 2000s, notably WorldCom and Enron, ushered in a new, likely permanent, era of long sentences for white collar crimes. The federal sentencing guidelines, as part of the 1984 Sentencing Reform Act, are just guidelines; judges can depart from them, but are less inclined to do so compared to in the past.

But with white collar sentences being longer and more punitive than ever, some are trying to move the goalposts a bit by focusing on bail, too. True, violent offenders are more likely to be denied bail, but this is not a major miscarriage of justice, but owing to violent offenders more likely being a threat to the community. The best SBF can hope for is either ‘only’ a 10-20 year sentence, or a presidential pardon. Getting bail is hardly a win on his part.