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- A federal judge agreed to unseal the names of Samuel Bankman-Fried’s two anonymous bail sponsors.
- But he paused his own decision for a week to allow for appeals.
- The judge pointed out that the sponsors waded into a highly public criminal case.
The federal judge overseeing Sam Bankman-Fried’s criminal case said there was no justifiable reason to keep secret the names of the disgraced cryptocurrency mogul’s two anonymous bail sponsors, ordering to unseal their names in court documents.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan said that the sponsors, whose identities Bankman-Fried argued should be kept secret for their safety, knew what they were getting into.
“The non-parental bail sureties have entered voluntarily into a highly publicized criminal proceeding by signing the individual bonds,” Kaplan wrote in his ruling on Monday.
At the same time, Kaplan paused on his own decision until February 7, giving Bankman-Fried and the sponsors an opportunity to appeal because of the “novel” legal issues at stake, he wrote.
Bankman-Fried’s bail package includes a $250 million bond secured by his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California, and also involves the two additional sponsors who put up a combined $700,000, according to a court filing this month. According to the rules of their bail agreement, one of those additional sponsors couldn’t be a family member, according to court filings.
Bankman-Fried’s attorneys have sought to keep the names and addresses of the two non-parent sponsors under seal. They’ve argued in court filings that Bankman-Fried’s parents have been subject to harassment, and that the two other sureties would be as well if they were publicly identified.
A group of media organizations, including Insider, argued that the public had a right to know who was bankrolling Bankman-Fried’s bail.
“Given Mr. Bankman-Fried’s relationships and access to some of the most wealthy, powerful, and politically connected individuals, including elected officials, access to the identity of the bond sureties will bolster trust in the judicial process here,” the news organizations, represented by Jeremy A. Chase and Alexandra Settelmayer at the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, argued in a filing earlier this month.
In December, federal prosecutors in New York unveiled 8 counts against Bankman-Fried, including wire fraud and conspiracy charges, in what they characterized as an effort to “misappropriate billions of dollars” of FTX customer funds.
Prosecutors have also pursued others in his orbit, and secured plea deals in December with Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of Bankman-Fried’s separate firm Alameda Research, and with FTX co-founder Gary Wang.
In his Monday decision, Kaplan weighed whether the bail documents qualified as “judicial documents” that normally have a presumption of public access, and considered whether the sponsors had countervailing privacy interests.
“If the names of the non-parental sureties are disclosed, it is reasonable to assume that those individuals would become subject to publicity that they would prefer not to attract,” Kaplan wrote. “That is entitled to some consideration, especially in a case which has the notoriety that this one has attracted.”
“But that alone does not do the trick,” Kaplan continued.