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Virgil Griffith Gets 63 Months After Pled To North Korea Sanctions Violation Conspiracy $100,000 Fine Too

By Matthew Russell Lee, Pod Exclusive Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - The Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, April 12 – Virgil Griffith, charged with violating North Korea sanctions in connection with a crypto-currency conference there and facing a September 27 trial, pleaded guilty in the morning and was remanded to jail.

  His sentencing was set for January 18, 2022, but occurred on April 12. Inner City Press was there and live tweeted, as he got 63 months and a $100,000 fine. Thread here:

...Virgil Grifftith has been brought in by US Marshals, in beige prison clothes. He waves at his parents in the front row. Waiting for Judge Castel.

 All rise! Judge Castel takes the bench. He tells the lawyers they may unmask (if vaccinated) and reads out list of sentencing memos and exhibits / letters - including the heavily redacted April 6 submission.

Defense lawyer Klein will speak 1st. Klein: I was a prosecutor for 5 years. Probation didn't consider the letters of support, ot conditions in MDC. Don't just judge St Peter on one day--

Judge Castel: You don't get to sentence your client, Mr Klein. I visited the MDC on March 23...

Klein: We don't complain about the conditions in Essex, where Mr Griffith was also detained. In the MDC, he got COVID for 3 weeks. Gangs control commissary. Mr Griffith is not in a gang.

 Klein: We're going to ask for designation to Allenwood Low. We got a medical review of his head. Judge Castel: Yes, narcissistic personality disorder.

 Klein: He was obsessed with North Korea. He helped a homeless man, Mr Hayes, he met at the Waffle House. He saved Mr. Hayes. Judge Castel: That was after his arrest.

Klein: The US says Mr Griffith made his case a cause celebre. But that was a statement by Vitalik Butarin, without Mr Griffith's knowledge of consent. The jail call was just gallows humor. Virgil's 2d lawyer Buckley: There was an absence of financial gain. Buckley: This is different from the Black Market Peso sanctions case. Nodes are not specialized.

 Buckley: Mr Griffith attempted to cooperate with the FBI. He gave them his GoPro camera and hooked them up with CC-2. He should not have to pay a fine - Judge Berman did not require it in the Halkbank case. Judge Castel: Mr Griffith, it's your time.

 Griffith: Watching Ukraine sanctions has shown me their value. I have been cured of my stubborn arrogance, and my obsession with North Korea. My career has been damaged. I'm sorry.

 AUSA: This is not about the First Amendment - it was smart contracts for North Korea to crack down on journalists, and to sponsor terrorism. Sanctions are crucial. He joined forces with a dictator's regime.

AUSA: He kept doing it. [Judge Castel appears to nod in agreement.] AUSA: He knew what he was doing. He tried to access over $1 million in a single crypto account. He bragged about it. His supporters went on web shows,  uh, radio shows. [Podcasts?]

 AUSA: Especially amid the Ukraine war, this sentence should send a message about not undermining sanctions regimes.  Judge Castel: I am going to impose sentence.

 Judge Castel: Some says Mr Griffith is being persecuted for prmoting crypto. But that's not what this case is about. He pled guilty the day before trial. It was intentional violation of sanctions, which are intended to avoid military conflict.

Judge Castel: Check out the photo of Mr Griffith in a North Korean tunic writing on a white board, No Sanctions, yay! And a smiley face. Virgil Griffith hoped to come home, to Singapore, as a crypto hero. Ethereum Foundation said they didn't want to do it directly

Judge Castel: Virgil Griffith has no ideology. He'll play off both sides, as long as he is at the center. I sentence him to 63 months in prison and a fine of $100,000.

 Docketed after the guilty plea was an order allowing his lawyers to take their fees out of his Coinbase accounts, 582b97ccd7afbl018834f232 and 52fbe72ld358f6dda000010a.  Photo here. Podcast here.

On the day of or after sentencing was set, it was delayed to April 12, 2022.

Late on March 4, Griffith's lawyer put in his sentencing submission, with redactions. He is asked for 24 months, while Probation recommends 63 months. Virgil writes, "I love my country and did not set up to do anything to harm it." Vitalik Buterin describes him reaching out, and hope the Judge Castel will let him do more.

On March 18 the US sentencing memo went in, asking fro 63 to 78 months and a fine of $1 million "to deter the defendant and others from similar conduct in the future."

Back on July 20 he faced a bail review proceeding - in person. He lost and was remanded, perhaps having an impact on the September 27 guilty plea. Inner City Press was there, and live tweeted, here and below (podcast here)

 On September 14, in the run up to the trial  starting on September 27, there was a final pre-trial conference replete with rulings. Inner City Press live tweeted it here.

  On September 22, Judge Castel denied Griffith's sealed motion to depose the Ethereum Foundation's general counsel Tju Liang Chua, or to allow him to testify by video. Order on Patreon here. On other grounds - late produced discovery - Griffith's lawyers  asked for a week continuance in the trial.

On September 23, initially without Griffith present, Judge Castel held a hearing then denied the request for delay. Inner City Press live tweeted it here.

On September 26, the Sunday before the trial starts on Monday, the US Attorney's Office docketed their opposition to the testimony of Ethereum's General Counsel, and e-mails of Virgil Griffith, filing on DocumentCloud here. Song here

The motion included: "The defendant served as one of the highest-ranking individuals in the Ethereum Foundation, as “Head of Special Projects,” and worked to pursue the DPRK node in coordination with the organization’s founder and its Executive Director.... on August 7, 2018, the defendant forwarded a proposal from CC-4 to place an Ethereum node inside the DPRK to the founder of the Ethereum Foundation, and another Foundation employee. See GX 3013 (attached hereto as Exhibit 5). The next day, on August 8, 2018, Griffith told another Ethereum colleague, “Let me ask Tju Liang [that is, the proposed Deponent] as well as a DPRK specialist whether if it’s possible to do this without violating sanctions. Will update you both.” When the colleague emphasized, “It can’t be a sanction workaround loophole thing either,” Griffith responded, “I’ll see what the lawyer says.” This record of Griffith’s close coordination with the leaders of the Ethereum Foundation to pursue the node, along with his decision to seek advice from Ethereum’s own in-house General Counsel, make clear that Griffith was not acting solely in his personal capacity when he contacted the proposed Deponent."

On Saturday, Griffith's lawyer belatedly docketed their motion, on Patreon here.

From September 23: Assistant US Attorney: There is no basis for an adjournment of the trial. They are not requesting to exclude, it seems.  Judge Castel: The parties agreed the US would make trial exhibit available on a rolling basis up to Sept 17? AUSA: We did not agree to end then

 It's 3:15 pm and... "It's the MCC, I have Virgil here."

Virgil: Hello. Judge Castel: Welcome.

Inner City Press will cover the sentencing.

The case is US v. Griffith, 20-cr-15 (Castel). 


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