U.S. judge rejects bail proposal for FTX founder Bankman-Fried
By Luc Cohen and Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) -A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a proposal to modify Sam Bankman-Fried's bail conditions, despite an agreement between the FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder and prosecutors to address potential witness tampering concerns.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan did not provide reasons for the denial, and said a hearing on bail remains scheduled for Feb. 9.
A spokesman for Bankman-Fried declined to comment. The office of U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan also declined to comment.
Bankman-Fried, 30, has been free on $250 million bond and living in Palo Alto, California, with his parents, who guaranteed the bond, since pleading not guilty to looting billions of dollars from the now-bankrupt FTX.
On Tuesday afternoon, he formally appealed Kaplan's Jan. 30 ruling granting a request by 11 media outlets including Reuters to reveal the names of two other people guaranteeing his bail.
Bankman-Fried has said his parents, both Stanford Law School professors, had been harassed and received physical threats since FTX's collapse, and there was "serious cause for concern" the additional guarantors might suffer similar treatment.
Prosecutors had asked last month to tighten bail, citing Bankman-Fried's efforts to contact both the general counsel of the FTX U.S. affiliate and new FTX Chief Executive John Ray, ostensibly to provide assistance.
Their proposed conditions would prevent Bankman-Fried from talking with most employees of FTX or his Alameda Research hedge fund without lawyers present, or using encrypted messaging apps such as Signal.
On Monday, Bankman-Fried's lawyer Mark Cohen said his client and prosecutors would allow communications with a specific set of employees, pending Kaplan's approval.
That agreement would also ban Bankman-Fried from using Signal, but let him communicate by phone, email, text message, Zoom and FaceTime, as well as WhatsApp if he installed monitoring technology.
Bankman-Fried would have also withdrawn his objection to a bail condition preventing him from accessing FTX, Alameda or cryptocurrency assets.
His lawyers had originally proposed banning contact only with certain potential witnesses like former Alameda chief Caroline Ellison and former FTX technology chief Zixiao "Gary" Wang, who have pleaded guilty to fraud and are cooperating with prosecutors.
Separately, prosecutors on Tuesday asked another judge to put on hold Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission civil lawsuits against Bankman-Fried until the criminal case ended.
They cited the cases' substantial overlap, and the risk Bankman-Fried could gather evidence in the civil cases to help his criminal defense.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis)