Founder of bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), has sought to avoid being jailed, denying prosecutors’ accusations of witness tampering that followed an interview he gave for the New York Times. The indicted crypto mogul also argued that revoking his bond would violate his right to free speech.
Bankman-Fried Says He Never Tried to Intimidate Witnesses Ahead of Trial
Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and former chief executive of failed crypto exchange FTX, claims he has never attempted to intimidate witnesses in his trial set to begin in October. In a letter to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, quoted by Reuters and Bloomberg, he insisted there was no reason for him to go to jail as requested by the prosecution.
Last week, U.S. prosecutors asked Kaplan to jail SBF after an article published by the New York Times quoted excerpts from a diary written by Caroline Ellison, former CEO of Bankman-Fried’s hedge fund Alameda Research and his former girlfriend. They accused him of trying to intimidate Ellison, who pleaded guilty and may testify against him.
Judge Kaplan imposed a temporary gag order and gave both sides time to prepare and submit written arguments before he rules on the request. In the letter, SBF’s lawyer Mark Cohen stated that the interview “was a proper exercise of his rights to make fair comment on an article already in progress, for which the reporter already had alternate sources.” He also stated:
Mr. Bankman-Fried’s contact with the New York Times reporter was not an attempt to intimidate Ms. Ellison or taint the jury pool.
Bahamas-headquartered FTX, one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges before it collapsed last year, filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. in November. Bankman-Fried was arrested in December in the Bahamian capital, Nassau, and extradited to the United States to face fraud charges, including misuse of customer funds, some of which were allegedly transferred to Alameda.
Sam Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty and has been living under house arrest at his parent’s home in California on a $250 million bond. He has frequently communicated with the public and the media since his arrest, having made 100 calls with the New York Times reporter alone, according to U.S. authorities.
SBF’s lawyers claim that jailing him would raise First Amendment issues. “As the government concedes, criminal defendants have a right to talk to the press about their case to influence their public image and try to protect their reputation, as long as the communications are not calculated to pervert the course of justice,” the letter notes. The defense also argued that restricted internet access at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where SBF would be held, would prevent him from preparing for the trial.
Do you agree with Sam Bankman Fried’s lawyers that a detention would violate his free-speech rights and hinder preparations for the trial? Share your thoughts on the case in the comments section below.