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Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), the founder and ex-CEO of the fallen cryptocurrency exchange FTX, is now faced with an accusation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ). He is alleged to have leaked private documents belonging to Caroline Ellison, his former business associate and romantic partner, who is also a government witness in his case.
According to the DoJ complaint filed on July 20, SBF attempted to tarnish Ellison’s reputation through the publication of her private writings in a New York Times article. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams contends that SBF met with one of the article’s authors to share these documents, which were not part of the government’s discovery material:
“Such efforts have the potential to taint the jury pool, and could have a chilling effect on witnesses, the Government respectfully requests an order that limits extrajudicial statements by parties and witnesses likely to interfere with a fair trial by an impartial jury.”
Ellison’s personal writings highlighted her struggle at Alameda Research and her emotional turmoil following her break-up with SBF, among other matters. The article also discussed that she was severely underpaid in comparison with her other colleagues, which could “publicly discredit a government witness” during his trial.
While the source of the documents wasn’t specified in the NYT piece, Williams suggested that SBF was the source due to private knowledge of the evidence:
“When the government learned this week that this article was forthcoming, defense counsel confirmed that the defendant had met with one of the article’s authors in person and had shared documents with him that were not part of the government’s discovery material.”
The documents are thought to have been accessed from SBF’s personal Google Drive account, given their absence in the case’s discovery materials. As Williams noted, this act might contravene U.S. federal rules of civil procedure that caution against the release of confidential information that could potentially obstruct a fair trial.
The government has thus requested the court to invoke Local Rule 23.1, which disallows “extrajudicial statements by parties and witnesses” that may impact the right to a fair trial by an impartial jury.
FTX, once a global powerhouse in the cryptocurrency exchange world, succumbed to multiple problems in November 2022, leading to a series of lawsuits against SBF and the exchange collapsing.
He is set to appear in court on October 2, with charges ranging from fraud to illegal political contributions and alleged bribes to the Chinese government.
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