Prosecutors want to take away SBF’s internet access

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Sam Bankman-Fried has been contacting witnesses, using a VPN, and using auto-delete for messages on Signal, but prosecutors still don’t want to revoke his bail.

Instead, in a hearing on Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos argued that SBF’s access to devices and the internet should be heavily restricted as he awaits trial on charges that include wire fraud and campaign finance regulation violations. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty.

In a letter submitted to the court on Wednesday, prosecutors pushed for Bankman-Fried to be broadly restricted from using cell phones, tablets, computers, or the internet save for a few restrictions. These include using Zoom to talk to his attorneys, using a device to review items in discovery, and using his phone for calls and SMS messages.

“We have to move beyond the Whac-A-Mole approach,” Roos said during the hearing, according to Inner City Press reporter Matthew Russell Lee. “We need a clear rule about defendant’s use of devices and the internet.”

The restrictions still seemed light to U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who questioned why prosecutors were not pushing for his bail to be revoked, as one citizen had requested in a letter to Kaplan

“You’re putting a lot of trust in him,” Kaplan said, according to Inner City Press

Roos pushed back on the judge’s concern, saying prosecutors are “mindful of his First Amendment rights.” 

Later on, Kaplan raised a concern about SBF using his parent’s devices, but Roos added that living with his parents keeps him from being unsupervised.

SBF’s attorney, Marc Cohen, later added that the disgraced CEO needed access to the internet to review items related to his case.

“He’s literally on trial for his life,” Cohen said, according to Law & Crime.

Since being released on $250 million bail, which was co-signed by a current and former faculty member of Stanford University, SBF has been liberal with his use of technology.

The former CEO of bankrupt crypto exchange FTX was accused by prosecutors of contacting former employees who could testify at his trial, including the general counsel of FTX US. Kaplan ordered Bankman-Fried to stop contacting former and current employees of the crypto exchange and Alameda Research.

On Monday, prosecutors said he also used a VPN, which is used to obscure an internet user’s location. SBF’s lawyers claimed he used it to watch NFL games, including the Super Bowl.

Despite the possible violations of his bail conditions, Kaplan did not make a final decision on the prosecutor’s proposal. Kaplan requested both the defense and prosecution work on an agreement that addressed his concerns and looked into hiring a possible technology consultant to advise him.

Kaplan reiterated that the hearing Thursday was not held with the aim of revoking SBF’s bail, but he also did not rule out the possibility, according to Law & Crime, adding, “…it could get there, conceivably.”

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