Lawyers for FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried said in a letter to a judge in a criminal fraud case that he rejected prosecutors’ claims that his conversation with a New York Times reporter amounted to witness fraud, but agreed to accept the gag order.
The letter was made public on Sunday and comes after prosecutors tried to bar Bankman-Fried and his allies from making public statements that could interfere with the case. Defense attorneys have asked that the order also apply to prosecutors and potential witnesses, namely FTX CEO John Ray.
U.S. District Judge Louis Kaplan is scheduled to consider the possibility of the order at a hearing Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan.
Cryptocurrency exchange FTX, once valued at US$32 billion, filed for bankruptcy in November. Banker Fried has pleaded not guilty to charges of stealing his client’s funds and is set to go on trial on October 2.
Bankman-Fried’s attorney Mark Cohen confirmed in the letter that his client had spoken to a New York Times reporter and provided documents written by Caroline Ellison, a former colleague who has worked with the prosecution.
A Times article on July 20th reported excerpts from Ellison’s personal Google documents before the fall of FTX, in which he said he was “pretty dissatisfied and overwhelmed” with his job and that he felt “hurt/rejected” by his breakup with Bankman-Fried.
Ellison, who heads Bankman-Fried’s Alameda Research hedge fund, has pleaded guilty to defrauding investors. Bankman-Fried said in December that he was in a relationship with Ellison, but gave no further details.
Cohen said Bankman-Fried’s conduct “did not violate a protective order, did not violate any bail conditions, and did not violate any law or regulation in this case.”
Cohen argued that the order should also apply to Ray, saying the current leader of the bankrupt FTX was “attacking and defaming” Bankman-Fried, pointing to his comments that the “villains” in the FTX case were being pursued by authorities and that Bankman-Fried lied to continue his “digital fraud.”
A spokeswoman for FTX Debtor declined to comment. A spokesman for the Manhattan federal prosecutor’s office, which is prosecuting the case, did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Mrinmay Dey, additional reporting by Luc Cohen New York; Editing: Christopher Cushing and Jonathan Ortiz)