Sam Bankman-Fried’s legal defense tried to convince a judge “nothing improper or impermissible occurred” last week when the disgraced crypto founder leaked former Alameda Research CEO and on-again-off-again girlfriend Caroline Ellison’s personal diary to The New York Times. The former FTX CEO’s defense says the leaked documents weren’t intended to “discredit a witness,” as the DOJ alleges, but was instead an attempt to respond to a “toxic media environment” he complains constantly casts him as a villain.
In a colorful court filing submitted Monday, Bankman-Fried’s attorneys admitted their notorious blabbermouth of a client shared “certain documents” about Ellison to a Times reporter during a recent visit to his home.
“We vigorously contest the Government’s allegation that Mr. Bankman-Fried attempted to taint the jury pool or influence a witness, or that the Government has been prejudiced in any way,” Mark Cohen, one of SBF’s attorneys, wrote in the letter. “None of what occurred was improper.”
Bankman-Fried, better known by his initials SBF, faces a litany of criminal charges including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud for his involvement in FTX’s sudden implosion last year.
The diary, parts of which were published in a Times story last week, includes entries of Ellison discussing her contentious relationship with SBF and admitting she felt unqualified to lead Alameda. SBF’s attorney characterized the article as “favorable to Ms. Ellison and negative toward [SBF]” even though it repeatedly described instances of Ellison doubting her professional capacity and expressing concern over her ability to navigate her position while simultaneously dating SBF.
“Running Alameda doesn’t feel like something I’m that comparatively advantaged at or well suited to do,” Ellison wrote in the journal. The Alameda Research CEO, who pleaded guilty to criminal charges earlier this year, is expected to testify against SBF as a star witness during his criminal trial later this year.
The testy letter came days after U.S. Attorney Damian Williams boldly accused SBF of attempting to discredit Ellison and taint a jury pool in his fraud trial by releasing the documents. Willaims claimed SBF violated civil procedure rules which bar lawyers or their agents from releasing non-public information about criminal cases if there’s “a substantial likelihood that such dissemination will interfere with a fair trial.” Other rules prohibit the sharing of documents that could harm the credibility or testimony of potential witnesses. SBF’s attorneys countered that by saying some of the sentiments expressed in Ellison’s leaked dreary were already public knowledge and previously noted the government’s indictment against SBF.
SBF claims the reporter reached out to him in regards to a story in the works about Ellison and that he handed over Ellison’s personal writings “in an effort to give his side of the story.” Presumably, the documents also give her side of the story. The former crypto darling claims he obtained those documents prior to his arrest last December in the Bahamas.
SBF, his attorney’s letter continues, was well within his rights to air out Ellison’s dirty laundry, in order to respond to a deluge of “almost uniformly negative” media coverage about him in the press. The defense claims that the string of unfavorable coverage has been exacerbated by SBF’s major detractors, including acting FTX CEO John Ray who has routinely criticized the crypto founder in public filings and hearings. SBF’s defense alleged the DOJ “stood silent” as Ray “routinely and gratuitously” attacked their client.
“Mr. Ray’s repeated ad hominem attacks on Mr. Bankman-Fried—which have very little do with his role recovering assets for FTX creditors and seem more directed towards publicly vilifying Mr. Bankman-Fried—have, along with other negative coverage, created a toxic media environment that has left Mr. Bankman-Fried with little choice but to respond,” SBF’s attorneys wrote in the letter. “[SBF], who has asserted his innocence despite these public attacks, has a right to counter that public narrative by making fair comment in the media.”
Incredibly, SBF’s defense went on to say they would gladly agree to the DOJ’s proposed order limiting the sharing of extrajudicial materials with the press, but only if the government agreed to abide by that same standard for Ray and any other potential witnesses. The DOJ and SBF’s legal team did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.