Ethereum Developer Virgil Griffith Will Likely Face Trial Next September

The US government wants to argue that Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith helped North Koreans better understand how crypto can be used to circumvent financial sanctions against the nation.
Griffith, who was arrested in November 2019 on charges of conspiracy to assist North Korea (DPRK) in using the cryptocurrency for its own benefit, moves the case against him to be dismissed. While U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel of the Southern Borough of New York has made a handful of minor decisions on the case, a full trial is tentatively slated for September 2021.
According to the government's complaint, Griffith traveled to Pyongyang last April to speak at a blockchain conference despite being denied permission by the US government. This is the first case of cryptocurrency and sanctions in US courts.
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Related: Virgil Griffith still doesn't know what exact crimes he is charged with, lawyers say
In October, Griffith's agents filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him. The motion argued that Griffith's releasing public information about blockchain technology to North Koreans did not constitute a provision of a service to the nation and that the government's claims did not specify facts.
This became a point of contention during Tuesday's hearing on the case. Judge Castel asked if the government intended to argue that the information disclosed in Griffith's speech at the conference "went beyond the existing blockchain capabilities and knowledge of the DPRK".
“I would like to know if the government intends to stand before the jury and argue that the information that Mr. Griffith provided and intended to provide as the subject of the conspiracy contained information that the DPRK was otherwise not aware of. Are you planning to do that? "he asked.
The prosecutor replied that they would not make this argument because the DPRK's definition by the defense in the application for dismissal was too broad. Instead, it shows how Griffith's speech and subsequent Q&A session helped individuals in the audience understand how cryptocurrency works.
Related: Western Union is suspending US dollar transfers to Cuba
"Mr. Griffith himself made statements to the FBI describing a lack of sophistication in the individuals in the audience who, with certain exceptions, asked questions and the kinds of things he did to help them better understand those concepts Whether or not it does, but there is material reflecting the DPRK as a whole or some other unknown component of the DPRK's cryptocurrency functions is not a problem in this case, "said Attorney Kyle Wirshba.
What does not appear to have been resolved are the specific charges Griffith will face: the complaint contains a broad charge of violating the Sanctions Act, but Griffith's lawyers want to know what exactly he is being charged with.
Although Judge Castel did not rule on Griffith's motion to dismiss the charges, a number of other orders were made.
Judge Castel filed a motion with the defendants to compel disclosure of information the US Treasury Department for Foreign Wealth Control (OFAC) may have implicated in Griffith's case, based on initial communications between the FBI and OFAC as of October 24, 2019 through the presence.
"When the prosecution is conducting a joint investigation with another state or federal agency, the courts in that circle have ruled that the prosecution's duty extends to reviewing materials in that other agency's possession for Brady purposes "said Judge Castel.
The Brady Rule requires prosecutors to disclose any information in government possession that could absolve someone from guilt.
The judge denied a motion by the defendant to reveal the identity of a witness whom the government has not yet confirmed. The government was only obliged to do so 30 days before the trial, said Judge Castel.
Read more: US vs Virgil Griffith: What We (And Don't Know) In The Bombshell Crypto Sanctions Case
Citing the prosecutor's statement, it does not argue that the information Griffith shared during his speech at the conference exceeded the DPRK's crypto and blockchain capabilities. Judge Castel postponed the decision on the defense's motion to seek information held by government agencies about these skills.
Instead, he asked the two parties to work on a provision on the issue and submit it to the court by January 25, 2021.
Finally, the judge suggested a series of dates for the trial to begin in September 2021. It was also decided that Griffith's attorneys should submit a letter demanding the relaxation of some of the restrictions placed on the defendant.
"As you know, he's got very, very tight restrictions," said defense attorney Brian E. Klein, adding that Griffith has no internet access and cannot leave his home.
Both parties have been instructed to write to the court by December 30 this year if they object to the initiation of proceedings in September 2021.
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Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith is expected to go to court next September
Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith is expected to go to court next September
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