Judge denies motion allowing SBF to use messaging apps

A federal judge has denied a joint agreement between Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried’s legal team and prosecutors that would have allowed the former FTX CEO to use certain messaging apps.

In a Feb. 7 filing for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Lewis Kaplan denied a motion proposing Bankman-Fried be allowed to use messaging services, including FaceTime, Zoom and Facebook Messenger. The judge did not provide a reason for denying the motion “without prejudice” but added the matter would be subject to oral arguments in a Feb. 9 hearing.

Prosecutors filed a motion in January suggesting the former FTX CEO not be permitted to use “any encrypted or ephemeral call or messaging application” as a condition of his bail following allegations of contacting witnesses. Judge Kaplan ruled on Feb. 1 that SBF was barred from contacting FTX and Alameda employees using the Signal app, citing a risk of “inappropriate contact with prospective witnesses.”

However, federal prosecutors discussed modifying the bail condition with Bankman-Fried’s lawyers, which would have allowed him to access FaceTime, Zoom, iMessage, SMS text, email and Facebook Messenger. The former FTX CEO would also have been allowed to use WhatsApp if “monitoring technology is installed on his cellphone that automatically logs and preserves all WhatsApp communications.”

Authorities alleged Bankman-Fried had attempted to influence witnesses based on communications uncovered between SBF and FTX US general counsel Ryne Miller and current FTX CEO John Ray. The Feb. 1 ruling does not allow communications between SBF and current or former employees of FTX or Alameda Research “except in the presence of counsel.”

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Bankman-Fried was arrested in December and charged with eight criminal counts, including wire fraud in the Southern District of New York. His trial is scheduled to begin in October, while FTX’s bankruptcy case is ongoing in the District of Delaware. SBF remains under house arrest at his parents’ California home, permitted to leave only for sanctioned events, including court appearances.