FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Denies Witness Tampering, Seeks to Avoid Jailtime

Sam Bankman-Fried, the indicted founder of the bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange, on Tuesday, said he never sought to intimidate witnesses at his scheduled October fraud trial, and there is no reason to jail him.

In a letter to US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, Bankman-Fried said prosecutors mischaracterised his intentions in giving a New York Times reporter the writings of former romantic partner Caroline Ellison, who is expected to testify against him.

“Mr. Bankman-Fried’s contact with the New York Times reporter was not an attempt to intimidate Ms. Ellison or taint the jury pool,” his lawyer, Mark Cohen, wrote in the letter. “It was a proper exercise of his rights to make fair comment on an article already in progress.”Bankman-Fried, 31, has pleaded not guilty to stealing billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to plug losses at his hedge fund Alameda Research, where Ellison was chief executive.

He has been largely confined to his parents’ Palo Alto, California home on a $250 million (roughly Rs. 2,100 crore) bond since his December 2022 arrest.

Ellison is one of three former members of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle who pleaded guilty to fraud charges and agreed to cooperate with the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan.

Kaplan barred Bankman-Fried from speaking about the case and asked both sides to submit written arguments about possible jail.

In an affidavit submitted by the defence, Laurence Tribe, a Harvard University constitutional law professor, said Bankman-Fried had a right to “avoid projecting a false image of someone who is media-shy or, worse, someone whose consciousness of guilt makes him shun the media.”

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers also argued that restricted internet access at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he would be held, would leave him unable to prepare for trial.

Prosecutors may respond to Bankman-Fried’s letter by Thursday. It is not known when Kaplan will rule.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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