Sam Bankman-Fried, the troubled founder of FTX cryptocurrency exchange, has strongly denied attempting to tamper with witnesses as he faces his forthcoming fraud trial in October. The 31-year-old entrepreneur, put on trial for allegedly draining billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to recover losses at his hedge fund Alameda Research, defended himself against the accusations of intimidating former romantic partner Caroline Ellison, who is expected to testify against him.
Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, Mark Cohen, asserted that his client’s contact with a New York Times reporter, where he provided writings from Ellison, was not an effort to influence or bias her testimony or the jury pool. Rather, Cohen argued, it was a legitimate exercise of his right to make fair comments on an ongoing article.
“Mr. Bankman-Fried’s contact with the New York Times reporter was not an attempt to intimidate Ms. Ellison or taint the jury pool … It was a proper exercise of his rights to make fair comment on an article already in progress,” lawyer Cohen wrote.
The defendant has been under a $250 million bond, primarily confined to his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California, since his arrest in December 2022. Meanwhile, Ellison, along with two other former associates from Bankman-Fried’s inner circle, have already pleaded guilty to fraud charges and have agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan.
To counter potential jail time, Bankman-Fried’s defense team presented an sworn statement from Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, asserting that the accused had a right to protect his public image and privacy.
In addition, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers also raised concerns about restricted internet access at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where he could be held, preventing his ability to adequately prepare for the trial.
Judge Lewis Kaplan, presiding over the case, has prohibited Bankman-Fried from discussing the matter publicly and has requested written arguments from both parties regarding possible jail sentencing.
Prosecutors have until Thursday to respond to Bankman-Fried’s letter, with the date of Judge Kaplan’s ruling yet to be disclosed.
The next trial will be closely watched by the crypto community and investors, assumed to have significant implications for the future regulation and perception of digital assets.