Judge to Sam Bankman-Fried: You Don't Get to 'Vet Things' With Witnesses
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Judge to Sam Bankman-Fried: You Don't Get to 'Vet Things' With Witnesses

Created 1mo ago, last updated 1mo ago

Telling a witness in his upcoming trial that he'd like them to "vet things with each other" got SBF booted off encrypted messaging apps and banned from contacting former FTX employees.

Judge to Sam Bankman-Fried: You Don't Get to 'Vet Things' With Witnesses

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After telling a witness against him he'd like them to "vet things with each other," Sam Bankman-Fried can no longer contact FTX employees without a lawyer.

Nor can he use messaging apps like Signal that are encrypted or designed to permanently delete messages.

That was the unsurprising ruling of Judge Lewis Kaplan, who agreed to the conditions prosecutors asked for after alleging that Bankman-Fried was trying to tamper with witnesses.

At issue was a Jan. 15 message that Bankman-Fried sent to an unidentified witness in his wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering trial for the collapse of FTX — after he allegedly used $10 billion of his customers' money to try and prop up trading firm Alameda Research following a string of big losses. In it, he said:

"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."
Prosecutors said that was at least potentially "witness tampering" and added that a policy Bankman-Fried created in 2021 to use Signal communications set to delete in 30 days was created in part to prevent their potential use in evidence. And had, indeed, hampered their investigation.

An Unpersuasive Reading

"While defendant's counsel seeks to have the court interpret that message in a benign way, that does not appear, on a preliminary basis, to be a persuasive reading," Kaplan ruled on Feb. 1. "The message ... seeks a reconciliation of an apparently damaged personal relationship ... [and] proposes that the defendant and Witness-1 'vet things with each other.'"

While the issue will be argued next week, Kaplan said "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.'" He added:

"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."
Bankman-Fried has created a little cottage industry of saying things his lawyers don't want him to, beginning with a series of Twitter messages purporting to tell the real story of how FTX collapsed into bankruptcy and culminating in a series of high-profile interviews in which he claimed to have been lazy, careless and stupid to a truly amazing degree rather than corrupt.

Among them, he told Good Morning America that he lost track of billions of dollars because he "wasn't even trying" to manage risk — something he later told the Wall Street Journal was the type of mistake "I could see myself having ridiculed someone else for having made."

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