Sam Bankman-Fried with denied text and FTX background

Appeals court denies Sam Bankman-Fried’s latest bid for release

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Convicted fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried has been denied his latest request for release while he awaits sentencing, scheduled for March 2024, as his team attempts to appeal his conviction. The appeals court described Bankman-Fried’s release bid as “unpersuasive,” citing the disgraced FTX founder’s previous attempts to witness tampering as the main reason for denial.

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the latest attempt for release by Bankman-Fried, who will have to stay in jail as his lawyers try to appeal his case. The disgraced founder and former CEO of FTX was convicted of seven counts of fraud earlier in the month and awaits sentencing, scheduled for March 28, 2024.

“We have reviewed the Defendant-Appellant’s additional arguments and find them unpersuasive,” said Clerk of Court Catherine O’Hagan Wolfe, in a November 21 letter. In justifying its decision, the court pointed to Bankman-Fried’s previous attempts to tamper with two witnesses while on pretrial release.

“There was probable cause to believe that the Defendant-Appellant attempted to tamper with two witnesses… and specifically that he acted with unlawful intent to influence those witnesses,” wrote O’Hagan Wolfe.

“The district court thoroughly considered all of the relevant factors, including the Defendant-Appellant’s course of conduct over time that had required the district court to repeatedly tighten the conditions of release.”

The ‘conduct’ in question refers to when Bankman-Fried was initially put under house arrest at his parents’ residence in Palo Alto, California, in the lead-up to his trial, but in August, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ordered him to be held in custody after he repeatedly violated the conditions of his bail. This included witness tampering, use of a virtual private network (VPN) in violation of his strict digital lockdown, and leaking the private writings of his former girlfriend, Caroline Ellison, to a New York Times reporter.

Guilty verdict—the crimes of Sam Bankman-Fried

After a month-long trial, on November 2, Bankman-Fried was found guilty of seven criminal counts of defrauding customers, lenders, and investors of FTX. The jury took only five hours to come to a unanimous verdict after Bankman-Fried’s shambolic showing in court, where he repeatedly responded to prosecutors’ questions with variations on ‘I don’t remember’ and ‘I don’t recall,’ leading the exasperated Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon to eventually ask “So what do you recall?”

The five-week trial in New York was also notable for damning testimony from Bankman-Fried’s former associates turned state witnesses Nishad Singh and Caroline Ellison.

Singh, FTX’s former head of engineering, spoke of how, under Bankman-Fried’s direction, he personally designed the system that began directing FTX customer deposits into Alameda bank accounts in 2019. Meanwhile, Ellison’s testimony included the revelation that, in November 2021, Bankman-Fried directed Alameda staff to pay $150 million to unspecified Chinese government officials to unfreeze around $1 billion in digital assets that were trapped on two China-based exchanges (Huobi and OKX).

Bankman-Fried now awaits his March 28 sentencing hearing, where he faces a potential maximum 115-year prison sentence for his multiple convictions.

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