Sam Bankman-Fried must stay in jail after R4.7-billion bail cancelled

Sam Bankman-Fried’s request to be released from jail ahead of his Oct. 3 fraud trial was denied by a federal appeals court, hours after he lost a separate ruling that blocks him from calling expert witnesses for his defense.

The former FTX co-founder has been dealt a series of setbacks as he gears up for his trial, which is scheduled in two weeks.

He had his $250-million (R4.7-billion) bail revoked in August, after the judge in his case ruled he likely tried to tamper with two government witnesses.

His lawyers asked the federal appeals court in Manhattan on Tuesday to release him so that he could properly prepare for his trial.

Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, Mark Cohen, said his client was merely exercising his First Amendment free-speech rights when he spoke to a New York Times reporter about the case.

But the appeals court said Thursday there was “probable cause” that he’d “engaged in witness tampering” by sharing the private writings of Caroline Ellison, his former girlfriend who served as the CEO of Alameda Research.

The decision came hours after the trial judge ruled that the former chief executive can’t call seven expert witnesses to testify on his behalf, which may narrow the scope of his defence.

US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who revoked Bankman-Fried’s bail in August, largely ruled Thursday that the witness testimony would have no bearing on issues in the case or could confuse the jury.

However, he did leave the door open for Bankman-Fried’s legal team to call some witnesses — including two experts in data analytics and blockchain technology — to respond to the government’s witnesses.

Prosecutors in Manhattan had asked the judge to exclude the expert witnesses, who were prepared to testify about the crypto industry, political donations, Alameda’s balance sheets and the use of customer funds.

Former Federal Election Commission chairperson Bradley Smith was also poised to charge $1,200 an hour to provide insight into US campaign finance laws.

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Sam Bankman-Fried must stay in jail after R4.7-billion bail cancelled