Judges weigh early release for Sam Bankman-Fried as lawyers push First Amendment issues: Report

A panel of three judges at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York reportedly will consider requests from Sam Bankman-Fried’s lawyers for early release from jail.

A three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has reportedly taken arguments from lawyers representing former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) under advisement in considering releasing him from jail prior to his October trial. 

SBF’s defense team and the U.S. Attorney’s office were each given roughly five minutes to argue before a panel of judges on Sept. 19. One of the judges reportedly claimed the SBF legal team’s First Amendment argument “has no play anymore” based on Bankman-Fried’s alleged attempts to intimidate witnesses including Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Alameda Research.

Lawyers representing Bankman-Fried pushed for release due to the need for Internet access in preparation for trial,  also claiming the U.S. District Court “erred” in denying their First Amendment arguments for release. Bankman-Fried previously admitted to releasing Ellison’s private journals to a New York Times reporter, resulting in some of its contents being published.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon reportedly acknowledged “there have been some issues with the Internet” during SBF’s confinement at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn but suggested he had had time to prepare his case.

“The incident with Ms. Ellison shows an intent to interfere with a fair trial,” said Sassoon. “The judge was correct to say the 1st Amendment had nothing to do with it. It was tampering. Counsel does not dispute that the content put Ms. Ellison in an unfavorable light.”

Related: FTX founder’s parents sued, accused of stealing millions from crypto exchange

Bankman-Fried has argued his time in jail violated his First Amendment rights and impaired his ability to properly prepare for his trial, scheduled to begin on Oct. 3. A judge denied his lawyers’ initial appeal for release on Sept. 6, prompting the move to the three-judge panel. It’s unclear when the panel will reach a decision on the former FTX CEO’s release, likely one of his last opportunities to be freed ahead of trial.

The October trial will be the first of two for the former FTX CEO. The first trial will deal with seven fraud charges related to his management of user funds at crypto exchange FTX and Alameda. The second trial, expected to start in March 2024, deals with five additional criminal charges.

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