Judge in FTX Case Mulls Gag Order on Contact with Media

Sam Bankman-Fried allegedly leaked private writings from his alleged co-conspirator to “influence public opinion” ahead of his trial this fall.

AccessTimeIconJul 24, 2023 at 5:41 p.m. UTC
Updated Jul 24, 2023 at 8:16 p.m. UTC

A federal judge is considering forbidding “parties and witnesses” in the FTX case from speaking to the media, days after the U.S. Department of Justice alleged that FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaked private documents from one of his co-conspirators to the press, according to court filings.

The proposed order, filed Monday, comes as the DOJ claims Bankman-Fried shared former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison’s private diary to obstruct a “fair trial.” Ellison and Bankman-Fried had also been in a relationship at the time of the alleged crimes.

“The parties in this case, their attorneys, and their agents are prohibited from publicly disseminating or discussing with any public communications media anything about the case which could interfere with a fair trial,” the proposed order said.

It added, “[That includes] statements about the identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses, information that has not been deemed admissible at trial, and statements intended to influence public opinion regarding the merits of this case.”

Bankman-Fried allegedly slipped diary entries from Ellison to the New York Times last week in an attempt to derail her testimony against him at his upcoming trial this October, the DOJ said in a letter Friday. Ellison faced a potential jail term for her role in allegedly defrauding FTX’s investors of billions of dollars before accepting a plea deal from federal prosecutors that would enable her to avoid prison entirely and be released immediately on a $250,000 bail.

But, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers denied those accusations in a letter to the judge on Sunday.

“The Government has taken a set of circumstances where nothing improper or impermissible occurred and has unfairly recast the events as a nefarious attempt by Mr. Bankman-Fried to ‘discredit’ Caroline Ellison and ‘taint’ the jury pool. But Mr. BankmanFried did nothing wrong,” his lawyers wrote.

The judge’s order could threaten the conditions of the former crypto king’s bail, which up until now have been relatively loose. Bankman-Fried is living at his parent’s house in Palo Alto, California in the run-up to his trial. The court has restricted his use of technology, but has granted exceptions permitting him to access certain websites, including CoinDesk.

This isn’t the first time Bankman-Fried has allegedly skirted his bail conditions. In February, the former executive allegedly used a VPN to intimidate former FTX US General Counsel Ryne Miller, a potential witness in the case against him, on Signal. Bankman-Fried maintained he used the VPN to watch the Superbowl, a claim of which Judge Kaplan had been skeptical.

Judge Kaplan has previously remarked on the relaxed nature of Bankman-Fried’s bail conditions and threatened revocation proceedings against him if he continues to violate his bail conditions.

“It could get there,” Kaplan warned at a February hearing. “I want [the bail conditions] to be tight.”

Edited by Nikhilesh De.


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Elizabeth Napolitano

Elizabeth Napolitano was a news reporter at CoinDesk.

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