Sam Bankman-Fried’s bail is tightened over ‘threat’ of witness tampering
Sam Bankman-Fried is in trouble, once again, for talking too much.
A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily tightened the FTX founder’s bail conditions after learning that Bankman-Fried sent a text message to a former top executive of the crypto trading platform. The judge said that appeared to be a “material threat of inappropriate contact with prospective witnesses.”
Judge Lewis Kaplan said Bankman-Fried is not allowed to contact current or former employees of FTX without attorneys present, nor to communicate over encrypted messaging apps until Kaplan hears arguments from both sides at a hearing next week.
The restriction comes after federal prosecutors raised the prospect of witness tampering when it discovered that Bankman-Fried had recently contacted the former general counsel of FTX, identified at “Witness-1” in court filings.
Prosecutors said Witness-1 could be called to testify against Bankman-Fried when he stands trial. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal counts of fraud and conspiracy.
In the message, Bankman-Fried wrote:
“I know it’s been a while since we’ve talked. And I know things have ended up on the wrong foot. I would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other. I’d love to get on a phone call sometime soon and chat.”
The judge disagreed with Bankman-Fried’s lawyers’ argument that the message was benign.
“The message in its entirety seems to be an invitation for Witness-1 to align his views and recollections with defendant’s version of events and thus make their relationship ‘constructive,'” Kaplan wrote. “In perhaps more colloquial terms, it appears to have been an effort to have both the defendant and Witness-1 sing out of the same hymn book.”
Kaplan added he would, for now, impose prosecutors’ request for tighter bail conditions based on the appearance of a “material threat of inappropriate contact with prospective witnesses.”
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