Former CEO of FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), has denied allegations of witness tampering after sharing excerpts from his ex-girlfriend’s private diary with a reporter from the New York Times.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has accused Bankman-Fried of leaking the diary of Caroline Ellison, a former colleague, and CEO of sister trading firm Alameda Research, who is also a key witness in Bankman-Fried’s upcoming trial.
In its request to Judge Lewis Kaplan, the DOJ argues that such leaks have the potential to taint the jury pool and create an environment of harassment that could deter other potential trial witnesses from testifying.
By limiting extrajudicial statements, the DOJ aims to ensure a fair trial by an impartial jury and protect the due administration of justice.
FTX Founder Seeks To Avoid Detention At MDC
Bankman-Fried’s attorney has filed a letter in response to the DOJ’s motion, claiming that the government’s position is based on “thin factual evidence, unsupported inferences, and assumptions.”
Notably, the defense also argues that detaining Bankman-Fried based on his communications with a reporter raises serious First Amendment concerns.
According to the letter made by SBF’s lawyer:
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 defense also argues that detaining Bankman-Fried in the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) would make it impossible for him to fully participate in his defense.
FTX founder’s legal team claims that the MDC is currently in a staffing crisis, which will make it impossible for the detention center to provide sufficient access to the discovery, which is unusually voluminous and complex.
Moreover, the prison does not permit inmates to have internet access, which the legal team claims “will cut off” Bankman-Fried from key parts of the discovery entirely and render the rest effectively unreviewable.
SBF’s Defense Team Proposes “Least Restrictive” Solution To DOJ’s Concerns
The defense submits that the “least restrictive” method to address the government’s concerns is for the court to impose the Temporary Order Governing Extrajudicial Statements as a final order.
According to the letter issued on August 1, the defense is willing to agree to the order given the critical need to prepare for trial without distraction and the additional burden of collateral litigation.
On the other hand, in response to the government’s claim that the former FTX CEO’s contact with a reporter was an attempt to intimidate or discredit Ellison, the defense argues that the reporter approached Bankman-Fried about an article he was already writing that featured Ellison’s personal diaries and writings.
Bankman-Fried shared copies of writings that the reporter apparently already knew about, and which were not produced in discovery, to give his perspective and protect his reputation. The defense argues that Bankman-Fried’s actions were a permissible exercise of his First Amendment right to make fair comments on a media story about himself.
Overall, the defense argues that there is no probable cause that the former FTX CEO engaged in witness tampering, nor is there clear and convincing evidence of a “serious risk” that he will attempt to intimidate a witness in the future.
Featured image from Unsplash, chart from TradingView.com