Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, is set to remain in jail after his bail was revoked by U.S. Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan. This decision was influenced by alleged witness tampering and giving documents to media outlets in attempts to intimidate witnesses.
- FTX, once one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges, filed for bankruptcy following a run on deposits last fall.
- Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas in December on fraud charges linked to FTX’s downfall and later extradited to the United States.
- Initially out on a $250 million bail, he was restricted to house arrest at his parents’ residence in Palo Alto, California.
During the Friday court hearing, federal prosecutors argued that Bankman-Fried had repeatedly tried to influence the upcoming trial’s proceedings, including alleged witness tampering. Some of their main arguments included:
- Bankman-Fried leaked private diary entries of his ex-girlfriend, Caroline Ellison, to The New York Times. Ellison, the former chief executive of Bankman-Fried’s failed crypto hedge fund, Alameda Research, pleaded guilty to federal charges in Dec. 2022.
- The government presented evidence of over 100 emails sent by Bankman-Fried to media outlets and more than 1,000 phone calls made to press members.
- Prosecutors emphasized the intent behind these communications was to “hurt” and “discredit” Ellison, a key witness for the prosecution.
Judge Kaplan rejected a request for delayed detention pending an appeal, stating, “My conclusion is there is probable cause to believe the defendant tried to tamper with witnesses at least twice.” He elaborated on his ruling for 33 minutes, walking through the reasons he believed the prosecution had established probable cause for witness tampering.
- Since his arrest, Bankman-Fried has been involved in numerous dealings with the media. These interactions are viewed by the Justice Department as an attempt to manipulate witnesses and bypass bail conditions.
- Judge Kaplan had already cautioned Bankman-Fried in July about his media interactions.
- Members of the press and defense lawyers argued that Bankman-Fried’s actions were protected under free speech rights and did not violate his bail conditions.
Legal representatives for the ex-billionaire raised concerns about his ability to prepare for the trial while jailed. They pointed out that he would need internet access to review large volumes of discovery documents vital to his defense. The government has requested that he be detained in a facility in Putnam, New York, where he would have such access.
Implications and Future Proceedings
Bankman-Fried, once considered a luminary in the cryptocurrency world, now faces a steep challenge in preparing his defense from jail. His trial is set to begin on Oct. 2.
Following the bail revocation, the U.S. government indicated plans to file a new superseding indictment. It remains unclear how this new indictment will influence the course of the upcoming trial.
As the crypto world watches closely, Bankman-Fried’s case represents a significant chapter in the oversight and regulation of the industry. Whether he will manage to mount a successful defense from behind bars remains to be seen, but it is evident that the events leading to his trial will have long-lasting implications for the sector.