Judge in SBF’s criminal case proposes gag order, citing attempt to ‘influence public opinion’

Judge in SBF's criminal case proposes gag order, citing attempt to 'influence public opinion'

The federal judge overseeing the criminal case against former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) has proposed an order preventing all involved parties and their attorneys from largely contacting the media.

In a July 24 letter filed with United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Lewis Kaplan drafted a proposed order that would prohibit anyone directly involved with the case or acting on their behalf from “publicly disseminating or discussing” information not considered admissible at trial, or “intended to influence public opinion”. As part of the conditions for his $250-million bail, Bankman-Fried is already barred from using messaging apps, virtual private networks, and other technology.

The proposed order followed a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on July 20 alleging the former FTX CEO had leaked former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison’s private journals to The New York Times. On July 23, lawyers for Bankman-Fried said in a court filing that “nothing improper or impermissible occurred”.

Under its current wording, the proposed order added that SBF would be personally barred from using “surrogates, family members, spokespersons, representatives, or volunteers” to make statements on his behalf. However, speaking to the media regarding information already available in public court filings or proceedings, or claims of innocence, would not be prohibited.

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Ellison, both a former business associate and romantic partner of SBF, will reportedly offer testimony in his first criminal trial, scheduled to begin on Oct. 2. In December 2022, she pleaded guilty to charges including fraud related to the collapse of crypto exchange FTX. Bankman-Fried has pled not guilty to all charges.

Lawyers representing SBF had requested Judge Kaplan extend any media gag order to include potential witnesses in the criminal case, including current FTX CEO John Ray. The July 24 order does not appear to apply to witnesses. Since FTX filed for bankruptcy in November 2022, Ray has often spoken to different media outlets on a variety of topics related to the exchange.

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