Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried has denied trying to influence a potential witness. Previously, government officials suggested that Bankman-Fried attempted to do so and requested restrictions on his communications in a January 27 court filing.
SBF attempted to contact the general counsel of FTX USA.
Damian Williams, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, accused Bankman-Fried of contacting a witness on January 15 through the encrypted messaging app Signal.
Williams said the recipient of the message was the general counsel for FTX US. Although the recipient is not explicitly named, the person in question is presumed to be Ryne Miller, who has held that position since 2021. Williams noted that Miller could be a witness in the trial and said that Bankman-Fried tried to influence the testimony of Miller.
In her January 15 message to Miller, Bankman-Fried wrote:
“I’d really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way we can have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least review things with each other.”
Williams said Miller has information that could incriminate Bankman-Fried. For example, Miller was present at FTX at the time of the company’s collapse and participated in online company groups on apps like Signal and Slack. There, Bankman-Fried allegedly instructed employees to move funds and revealed details of his actions.
Williams asked the court to impose two restrictions. First, he said Bankman-Fried should be prevented from contacting people who are (or were) employed by FTX and Alameda Research, unless they are exempt. Second, Williams noted that Bankman-Fried should be prevented from using self-deleting and encrypted communication apps, including Signal.
In the filing, Williams noted that Bankman-Fried contacted other FTX associates through Signal, saying the former executive has a “history of using the app for obstructive purposes.” Additionally, Williams stated that Signal’s automatic deletion feature has already obstructed investigations, saying that Bankman-Fried previously admitted to setting messages to delete within 30 days or less.
The proposed restrictions will not prevent Bankman-Fried from communicating with others through standard channels such as phone, text and email.
Bankman-Fried denies the allegations
Bankman-Fried has since denied trying to influence Miller, and his legal representation has said the allegations paint him in the “worst possible light.”
In a filing dated January 28, Bankman-Fried’s legal team said its attempts to contact Miller were an attempt to offer assistance in the FTX bankruptcy case. That case proceeds separately from the Bankman-Fried criminal case.
The team came up with an alternative restriction: Bankman-Fried must be completely blocked from communicating with specific people, but allowed accessible communication with other people, regardless of the messaging app chosen.
The legal team added that Bankman-Fried did not have Signal’s automatic deletion feature enabled for the relevant message and said a copy of the message was sent via email. He further noted that Miller did not respond to the message.
Bankman-Fried’s legal team also questioned the timing of the government’s request, suggesting that Friday’s late filing was aimed at avoiding a response from Bankman-Fried’s representation. However, the team also acknowledged Bankman-Fried’s prior communications with FTX’s deputy CEO, John Ray III, and objections to such communications.
Judge Lewis Kaplan has yet to decide whether to impose the requested restrictions. However, Kaplan noted that neither party provided the relevant messages to the court and said the government should submit those messages by January 30.
This post Sam Bankman-Fried denies trying to influence witness, expects possible contact restrictions
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