© Reuters. Indicted FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves the United States Courthouse in New York City, U.S., July 26, 2023. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky
By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sam Bankman-Fried, the indicted founder of the bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange, on Tuesday said he never meant to intimidate witnesses at his scheduled October fraud trial, and there is no reason to jail him.
In a letter to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, Bankman-Fried said prosecutors mischaracterized his intentions in giving a New York Times reporter the writings of former romantic partner Caroline Ellison, who is expected to testify against him.
“Mr. Bankman-Fried’s contact with the New York Times reporter was not an attempt to intimidate Ms. Ellison or taint the jury pool,” his lawyer, Mark Cohen, wrote in the letter. “It was a proper exercise of his rights to make fair comment on an article already in progress.”Bankman-Fried, 31, has pleaded not guilty to stealing billions of dollars in FTX customer funds to plug losses at his hedge fund Alameda Research, where Ellison was chief executive.
He has been largely confined to his parents’ Palo Alto, California home on $250 million bond since his December 2022 arrest.
Ellison is one of three former members of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle who pleaded guilty to fraud charges and agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan.
Kaplan barred Bankman-Fried from speaking about the case and asked both sides to submit written arguments about possible jail.
Prosecutors may respond to Bankman-Fried’s letter by Thursday. It is not known when Kaplan will rule.