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Accusations of Witness Tampering Could Cost Sam Bankman-Fried His Bail

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Sam Bankman-Fried might lose his $250 million bail, as federal prosecutors have presented a motion asserting he attempted to influence government witnesses while awaiting his trial. This founder of the defunct FTX cryptocurrency exchange is under scrutiny for releasing personal journal entries of Caroline Ellison, his ex-partner and prior CEO of Alameda Research, to The New York Times. The intent, according to prosecutors, was to tarnish the image of a crucial cooperator testifying against him.

By sharing Ellison’s private writings about her insecurities and heartache with the hope that it would be published by the New York Times, the defendant’s conduct also constitutes an attempt to ‘intentionally harass’ Ellison to hinder, prevent, or dissuade her from testifying.

The prosecutors’ document, spanning 12 pages and submitted to Judge Lewis Kaplan, claims that the release of these private entries from Ellison’s diary was a calculated move. The entries detailed her emotional challenges and relationship struggles with Bankman-Fried. The prosecutors allege that by publicizing these intimate details, he hoped to dissuade Ellison from testifying and malign her image.

The letter also sheds light on another alleged attempt at witness tampering. Earlier, while barred from reaching out to potential witnesses, Bankman-Fried reportedly tried to communicate with FTX US’s chief legal advisor. He is believed to have written, “I would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship.”

Prosecutors highlight the defendant’s habit of using encrypted messaging platforms, such as Signal and Slack. They believe this pattern is a deliberate effort to hide evidence of any potential misdeeds related to FTX and Alameda. The bail revocation proposal asserts that these actions question whether any bail conditions would assure Bankman-Fried’s compliance or guarantee public safety.

Protected by the First Amendment?

In contrast, Defense attorney Mark Cohen contends that his client’s actions were protected under the First Amendment, emphasizing that communicating with the media was not illegal. Prosecutors, however, maintain that leaking information and communicating extensively with journalists, specifically those from The New York Times, is part of a bigger plot to improperly influence the jury and intimidate witnesses.

The impending trial for Bankman-Fried is set to take place in October. The charges against him include wire fraud, conspiracy, securities fraud, and campaign finance violations. These charges stem from allegations of misusing FTX customer deposits for personal gain, making political donations, and risky trades at Alameda Research. If found guilty, he might face a prison sentence of up to 115 years.

Since his indictment in December, Bankman-Fried has been under house arrest in California. Despite the accusations and his extensive international ties, his legal team insists he poses no threat to the community and wishes to remain in the U.S. to defend himself.

When he was released on the $250M bail last year, some in the Crypto Twitter community were surprised that he was able to come up with such a massive sum, since he had previously said he only had $100,000 in his account.

Prosecutors also touched upon previous concerns surrounding Bankman-Fried’s use of encrypted apps and VPNs while on bail. They argue that these actions, combined with his alleged attempts to sway public opinion, make a strong case against his bail’s continuance. Defense attorney Mark Cohen is expected to counter these claims in a forthcoming formal response before Judge Kaplan’s bail decision.

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