“BitBoy Crypto” YouTube influencer Ben Armstrong told a federal court on Monday that a tweet he posted from the Bahamas last week had been a joke and should not be considered as harassment or a threat. A judge told him to be careful.
Armstrong, who's among the influencers named in a class action lawsuit for allegedly promoting now-bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, was banned from tweeting threats directed at the lawyer who brought the case, Adam Moskowitz, and his firm’s clients last week after he missed a scheduled court appearance so that he could attend a cruise with fans in the Bahamas.
The Monday court appearance in Miami was full of color, with judge Melissa Damian of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida at one point asking Armstrong to correctly pronounce Moskowitz instead of saying "Mouse-kowitz." Armstrong said it hadn't been on purpose and noted that he had also mispronounced his own lawyer's name.
'Kid on Christmas'
Armstrong was giddy about being able to defend his name in court.
"I've been like a kid on Christmas to clear my name," Armstrong said. He said the lawsuit was frivolous and full of false allegations. "I have been attacked, and I would like to clear my name."
Armstrong apologized for missing the hearing last week and said fans had paid a lot of money to attend the cruise. He told the judge that he believed that Moskowitz had tried to schedule the hearing on a day he knew that the popular YouTube personality would be unable to attend. He posted a tweet that day with a shirtless photo of him next to a pig.
Judge Damian said allegations of threatening calls Moskowitz says he received had been turned over to the FBI. Armstrong denied making the calls and said he regretted some of the language he'd used in emails.
BitBoy, 'be careful'
After Armstrong asked to be sworn in so that he could read a prepared statement under oath, Damian also reminded him about his fifth amendment privileges and told him it wasn't yet necessary to talk about any of the merits of the case being brought by Moskowitz. Armstrong denied that he ever worked for FTX.
"I'm cautioning you to be careful," said Damian, who determined that it was not necessary to hold Armstrong in contempt, adding that she respected and honored his first amendment privileges. "Think before you publicly comment," she said, noting that there was a line where free speech could become harassment.
Moskowitz told the judge that police had been stationed outside of his house and that he was more worried about Armstrong's followers. He said he hasn't received any new threats since the judge first ordered them to stop last week.
Damian told Armstrong to tell his followers that they should also refrain from activities that could be considered threatening. She reminded him that he should have no direct contact with Moskowitz and said that if any future comments crossed the line into harassment, a new evidentiary hearing might be necessary.
'Swimming with the pigs'
Speaking with The Block after the hearing, Armstrong said he would seek to be removed from the lawsuit and maintained that he'd never done any work for FTX.
"I don't have evidence that I didn't work with FTX," he said. "That's like saying 'well, I didn't have evidence that there was an elephant in the room I wasn't in.'"
"At the end of the day, I'm going to comply with what the court wants me to comply with," he said when asked about tweets he might make in the future. He said he'd been planning the "swimming with the pigs" event for months.
"When I got on the boat on Monday I realized, 'oh, you know what, I'm going there on Thursday, the day of the hearing. And I'm going to be able to basically take this picture with a pig.' Because, honestly, what he's done is disgusting," he said, referring to Moskowitz.
Disclaimer: The former CEO and majority shareholder of The Block has disclosed a series of loans from former FTX and Alameda founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
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