Attorneys for Sam Bankman-Fried, also known as SBF, have lodged an appeal asserting that the ex-FTX CEO’s bail was rescinded as a form of “punishment for him utilizing his First Amendment rights,” instead of the supposed witness tampering.
In a document submitted on Aug. 25 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the legal representatives of SBF made a request for his pre-trial release in October. They argued that Judge Lewis Kaplan’s decision to cancel SBF’s bail on Aug. 11 was “unjustified,” stating that his interactions with the media and the disclosure of details about ex-Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison fell under his First Amendment rights.
The appeal noted that SBF’s attorneys challenged the way “intimidation or threats” were directed towards Ellison by the former FTX CEO during his conversations with New York Times journalists, resulting in some of her personal diaries being revealed in a news story. The New York Times also made a separate submission in the case, arguing that the public had a “valid interest” in the disclosed information, and raising similar First Amendment issues.
“As per existing jurisprudence, the communications of Mr. Bankman-Fried with the reporter from the Times were protected activities under the First Amendment,” stated the appeal dated Aug. 25. “Neither the Government nor the trial court have referenced any legal precedent, and the defense is not aware of any instance where providing information of public interest to a reporter has been interpreted as witness tampering.” The appeal expanded on a submission made to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which contended that Bankman-Fried’s ability to access discovery materials before his criminal trial was insufficient due to his restriction to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. With approximately five weeks left until the commencement of his initial trial on Oct. 3, the Justice Department has already shared millions of pages of discovery documents in advance of the court session. Kaplan had previously authorized provisions for SBF to access a courthouse detention area with his lawyers, provided they gave a 48-hour notice. Nonetheless, the lawyers of Bankman-Fried deemed these arrangements insufficient, given the restricted time before the trial and the volume of data to be examined.
In October, Bankman-Fried is set to face seven criminal charges related to the alleged deception and misuse of client funds at FTX and Alameda. Another trial is planned for March 2024, where the former CEO will be confronted with five additional criminal charges. He has entered a plea of not guilty for all accusations.