A three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has denied a motion for early release for former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, or SBF.
In a Sept. 21 order, Circuit Judges John M. Walker Jr., Denny Chin and William Nardini denied SBF’s motion for early release, which his team argued was largely due to First Amendment issues. The ruling said Lewis Kaplan — the judge overseeing SBF’s criminal case — had “correctly determined” that Bankman-Fried’s speech amounted to witness tampering.
“The record shows that the district court thoroughly considered all of the relevant factors, including [Bankman-Fried’s] course of conduct over time that had required the district court to repeatedly tighten the conditions of release,” said the Sept. 21 order. “It also shows that the district court contemplated a less restrictive alternative offered by [SBF] — an order limiting his communications with the press — but reasonably concluded this was not ‘a workable solution longer term.’”
The judges added:
“The district court did not err in concluding that [SBF] had failed to rebut the presumption in favor of detention. We have reviewed [the defense team’s] additional arguments and find them unpersuasive.”
Bankman-Fried previously admitted to releasing former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison’s private journals to a New York Times reporter, resulting in some of their contents being published — an act prosecutors labeled as witness intimidation. SBF’s lawyers also argued for early release from jail on the grounds that the lack of consistent internet access prevented him from preparing an adequate defense for his criminal trial.
The court had been deliberating on the matter following a Sept. 19 hearing in which both the Justice Department and SBF’s defense team had roughly five minutes to present their cases for the former FTX CEO remaining in jail and early release, respectively. Judge Kaplan revoked SBF’s $250-million bail on Aug. 11, whereupon he was remanded to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
The appellate court ruling was likely one of the last chances for Bankman-Fried to be freed ahead of his first criminal trial, scheduled to begin on Oct. 3 — less than two weeks. His second trial is expected to start in March 2024. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.