FTX owner Sam Bankman-Fried’s ongoing legal battle has garnered substantial attention from media giants and constitutional scholars, who have asked that the gag order be lifted. In anticipation of his October trial, Bankman-Fried, who faces charges related to the fall of FTX, has become the focal point of a significant First Amendment discussion.
Legal and media luminaries defend Bankman-Fried’s right to speak
Following a temporary gag order preventing Bankman-Fried from communicating with the press, significant figures from The New York Times and Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe voiced concerns. They emphasized both the constitutionality of Bankman-Fried’s right to interact with the media and the media’s First Amendment rights to report on public interest matters.
Tribe, a noted constitutional law expert, submitted an affidavit to the U.S. federal court, underlining that Bankman-Fried should not be perceived as avoiding media interaction due to potential guilt. He stated, “Mr. Bankman-Fried has a constitutional right…to avoid projecting a false image of someone who is media-shy.”
The ongoing debate also touches on concerns about whether Bankman-Fried was the source of personal documents of his former girlfriend, Caroline Ellison, and ex-CEO of Alameda Research. This led prosecutors to suggest a pattern of witness tampering, further fueling the gag order debate.
Media’s role and public interest
The New York Times has been notably vocal in its stance against the restrictive gag order, given the significant public interest in the case. David McCraw, deputy general counsel for the Times, highlighted the public’s legitimate interest in understanding Ellison’s role in the FTX saga, especially given her central involvement in the alleged financial scheme.
Further strengthening the media’s position, a documentary company focused on the FTX case and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have urged a reconsideration of the gag order. They advocate for the continuation of communication between Bankman-Fried and journalists, emphasizing public interest.
The larger narrative revolves around FTX’s collapse, which raised questions about handling customer funds and subsequently led to Bankman-Fried’s arrest. He faces a series of charges, including fraud and money laundering. Federal prosecutors, after a Times report which included snippets from Ellison’s personal writings, have accused Bankman-Fried of witness tampering. This led to an interim gag order by Judge Kaplan.
Due to the significant amount of input received, Kaplan ordered an additional hearing on Friday concerning the matter. Following this hearing, the judge will determine whether to incarcerate Bankman-Fried prior to the trial and whether to prolong the temporary gag order throughout the criminal trial, set to commence on October 2.