The founder of the embattled FTX cryptocurrency exchange, Sam Bankman-Fried, has vehemently denied seeking to intimidate witnesses before his upcoming October fraud trial.
Addressing US District Judge, Lewis Kaplan, Bankman-Fried dismissed accusations of attempting to sway the case by providing writings to a New York Times reporter regarding his former partner Caroline Ellison.
Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, Mark Cohen, insisted that the contact with the reporter was not intended to intimidate Ellison or manipulate the jury pool. Instead, it was a legitimate exercise of his rights to comment on an ongoing article.
He wrote; “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.”
The 31-year-old entrepreneur faces charges of embezzling billions from FTX customer funds to cover losses at his hedge fund Alameda Research, where Ellison held the position of chief executive.
Having entered a not guilty plea, Bankman-Fried’s movements have been curtailed since his arrest in December 2022, primarily residing under a $250 million bond at his parents’ Palo Alto home.
Ellison, a former member of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle, is expected to testify against him. She is among three individuals who pleaded guilty to fraud charges, agreeing to cooperate with the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan.
The case has spurred a legal debate about Bankman-Fried’s right to engage with the media.
Harvard constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe attested to Bankman-Fried’s prerogative to counter any false public perception.
Tribe 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.”
As the legal proceedings continue, the spotlight remains on whether Bankman-Fried will be confined to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn and whether restricted internet access there could hinder his trial preparations.
Awaiting the prosecution’s response to Bankman-Fried’s letter, the court’s decision on these matters is eagerly anticipated.