Sam Bankman-Fried denies witness tampering allegations in letter to judge
SBF battles prosecutors' allegations and fights to keep his bail amid FTX fraud case drama.
Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) has firmly rejected allegations of witness tampering after sharing extracts from his ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison’s private diary with a reporter from the New York Times.
This denial comes as federal prosecutors seek to revoke his bail, claiming the diary leak and other communications indicate SBF has improperly attempted to influence Ellison, a key witness in the high-profile FTX fraud case.
In a strongly-worded letter to Judge Lewis Kaplan filed on Aug. 1, lawyers for SBF contend he was acting within his Constitutional rights by offering commentary to the press. They assert his intention in contacting the reporter was to respond to an existing story already in progress and protect his reputation rather than improperly sway the trial.
The defense team argues that the prosecution has taken various facts out of context, like SBF’s use of encrypted messaging applications, to portray his actions unfairly negatively. The defense claims a disputed communication with a former FTX lawyer was genuinely about assisting with bankruptcy proceedings, not stealth witness tampering as alleged.
SBF’s counsel also rejects the prosecution’s rationale for detaining their client as extremely flimsy, reliant on assumptions, innuendo, and insufficient evidence. The letter states,
“The Government’s proffered factual basis to revoke Mr. Bankman-Fried’s bail is extremely thin and relies heavily on assumptions, unsupported inferences, and innuendo.”
SBF’s legal team posits the controversial NY Times article containing extracts from Ellison’s diary ultimately portrayed her sympathetically while being unfavorable to SBF – the opposite of the prosecution’s assertion he was seeking to intimidate her.
The defense points out that revoking bail would make preparing for the immensely complex FTX fraud trial practically impossible for SBF, given the loss of computer and internet access needed to review many millions of documents involved in the case. As an alternative, they propose the least restrictive option is for the judge to impose a gag order restricting extrajudicial statements.
This latest back-and-forth over witness contact and press commentary comes amid intense public scrutiny as the high-stakes FTX case progresses. With his trial fast approaching, debates around the extent of SBF’s allowable actions while on bail seem set to persist.
For now, SBF remains on bail under strict conditions. However, the severe nature of the criminal charges he faces appears to be spurring prosecutors to advocate for his detention before the trial commences. As both sides vigorously defend their stance to the judge, the letter highlights how contentious the fraud proceedings could become.