SBF Not Allowed to Use Messaging Apps Despite Agreements with Prosecutors

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Despite reaching an agreement with prosecutors, the judge denies the motion to allow SBF to use messaging apps.

Sam Bankman-Fried, is facing life imprisonment on charges of fraud and conspiracy. He has been denied access to electronic communication by the Southern District of New York District Court. Prosecutors alleged that Bankman-Fried attempted to tamper with witnesses. They allegedly caught him using the encrypted messaging app Signal.

Encrypted messaging apps such as Signal allow users to set a time limit for messages to remain on the app, with options ranging from 30 seconds to four weeks. People can use such apps for malicious purposes. Still, they also provide secure communication channels.

In January, prosecutors filed a motion claiming that SBF should not be allowed to use encrypted messaging apps as part of his bail conditions, following allegations of attempting to contact witnesses. On Feb. 1, Judge Lewis Kaplan upheld this motion. He ruled that the former FTX CEO was prohibited from communicating with FTX and Alameda employees via the Signal app due to the risk of “inappropriate contact with prospective witnesses.”

Here is one of the messages that SBF sent to one of the witnesses:

But, SBF’s attorneys then made a request to the judge to permit SBF to communicate electronically, with monitoring in place. The request included access to messaging apps such as FaceTime, iMessage, Zoom, SMS messages, email, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.

SBF’s legal team and prosecutors had then come to a joint agreement that would have permitted the use of messaging services such as FaceTime, Zoom, iMessage, SMS text, email, and Facebook Messenger with proper monitoring.

Judge Denies the Motion

However, this joint agreement has now been denied by Judge Kaplan. The former CEO remains under house arrest at his parents’ California home. He is only allowed to leave for sanctioned events such as court appearances. Bankman-Fried is facing eight criminal counts, including wire fraud, in the Southern District of New York, with his trial scheduled for October. The bankruptcy case of FTX is ongoing in the District of Delaware.

SBF allegedly tried to influence witnesses based on communications between him and Ryne Miller, the FTX US general counsel, and current FTX CEO, John Ray. The Feb. 1 ruling by Judge Kaplan stated that communications between Bankman-Fried and current or former employees of FTX or Alameda Research must only take place in the presence of counsel. The judge declined the motion “without prejudice.”

The matter will receive oral argument during a Feb. 9 hearing, and the outcome of this case will have implications on how the whole case develops.

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