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With Griffith Jailed Before NoKo Trial He Asks To Exclude Evidence of Wealth, Tor & DPRK

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

SDNY COURTHOUSE, August 27 – Virgil Griffith, charged with violating North Korea sanctions in connection with a crypto-currency conference there, faced a bail review proceeding - in person - on July 20. He lost and was remanded. Inner City Press was there, and live tweeted, here and below (podcast here)

Now late on August 27 Griffith's lawyers have filed his motions to limine, seeking to exclude evidence at trial including about his "purported personal wealth and cryptocurrency holdings.. involvement with Tor / 'Dark Web'... DPRK's nuclear program and any implication that Mr. Griffith was involved in said program." Watch this site.

On August 24 the US Attorney's Office acknowledged that at least four FBI agents not on the case accessed the search warrant returns from Griffith's accounts:

"(1) On May 4, 2020, a now-retired FBI agent conducted a search on the Platform and then,  based on the returns from that search, viewed at least some portion of the Search  Warrant Returns. 

(2) On April 6, 2021, and April 19, 2021, an FBI analyst ran three searches on the Platform and viewed at least some portion of the Search Warrant Returns. 

(3) On May 27, 2021, an FBI analyst conducted a search on the Platform and, as a result  of that search, viewed at least some portion of the Search Warrant Returns.

(4) As described above, on August 11, 2021, an FBI analyst conducted a search in the  Platform and viewed at least some portion of the Search Warrant Returns. She shared those results with, among others, an FBI agent also not on the prosecution team, who  emailed them to the FBI case agent." Full letter on Inner City Press' DocumentCloud here.

On August 13, the US Attorney's Office filed its motions in limine, including that Griffith "forwarded CC-4's email to the co-founder of the Ethereum Foundation and Griffith's ultimate boss ('Individual-1') and another Ethereum Foundation leader." The US wants to use these individuals, and communications, against Griffith at trial. Watch this site.

From July 20: Judge Castel has entered: All rise. Two prosecutors, 1 pre-trial services officer. Griffith and 2 lawyers.

AUSA: The defendant tried to access his crypto accounts, using a 3d party, evading computer monitoring condition.

 AUSA: His mother impersonated him. The defense counsel's involvement does not mitigate the risk of flight. "He's a millionaire with ties abroad."

 Judge Castel: How much time might he face? AUSA: 20 years. Judge Castel: Were the funds frozen? AUSA: Coinbase said they would not release them... He was thrown out of hotel in LA, after bragging about North Korea and crypto, he told staff, Read about me.

 AUSA: The defendant has violated his bail conditions. Judge Castel: Mr Klein?

Ms Axel: It's a misunderstanding. He's only banned from cold wallets. His father is here. [True: here in courtroom gallery with Inmer City Press]

 Judge Castel hands out law of 2d Circuit on advice of counsel as a defense.  [Note: There are no US Marshals in the courtroom now.]

Ms Axel seems to acknowledge that Mrs Griffith made it appear to Coinbase that she was her son. Judge Castel: Did he email Coinbase? Seems so.  Judge Castel reads Judge Broderick's Jan 2, 2020 bond order. Axel: You modified it. Judge Castel: So it's my fault...

Axel cites Docket 92, allowing emails with non attorneys. Judge Castel: The no-crypto provision was not modified. You have a problem here, Ms. Axel.

Judge Castel: His mother's Internet use was on hid behalf, and in his name. Axel: His father put Virgil's name in his phone to get in today. Judge Castel: Is Ethereum paying for any of his defense? Klein: Not in public. [Sidebar with white noise]

Klein comes into gallery and whispers with Virgil's father, returns to sidebar with Judge Castel and prosecutors.

 Axel: We spoke with pre-trial services officer Carl in Alabama... Virgil's parents are upstanding members of the Tuscaloosa community. Judge Castel: Pre-Trial works for the Court. Inner City Press @innercitypress · 54m Two US Marshals have come into the courtroom. One goes forward and sits directly behind Griffith. Axel is still talking.

Judge Castel: Last word to the government. AUSA: They knew accessing crypto currency accounts was forbidden. These are just post hoc justifications.

AUSA: He's told No, then tries to circumvent. He's an expert in the Dark Web, and searching it. On Aug 7, 2019 he said, The Americans let you get away with it once.

Judge Castel: I don't have to find a violation. This is a bail review. Axel: Dissidents use the Dark Web. He has PhD, he could do this. Doctor Evil does this with a burner from Starbucks, not through his mother.

Judge Castel: He's charged in a single IEEPA count. Trial is near. The circumstances have changed. Ether has gone up by ten times. It changes the calculus. Bond Paragraph 14 was violated.

 Judge Castel: My concern is risk of flight. The defendant is remanded.

He is awaiting trial in September 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

On July 9 the US Attorney's Office wrote to SDNY Judge P. Kevin Castel saying Griffith attempted to access one of his frozen cryptocurrency accounts containing assets of nearly $1 million. They went a hearing, and they want him remanded (jailed). Full letter on Patreon here.

On July 13, this: "MEMO ENDORSEMENT as to Virgil Griffith on re: [119] LETTER MOTION filed by USA addressed to Judge P. Kevin Castel from AUSAs Kimberly Ravener and Kyle Wirshba dated July 9, 2021 re: Violation of Bail Conditions. ENDORSEMENT: A bail review proceeding will be held on July 20, 2021 at 2:00 p.m. in Courtroom 11D. The defendant shall appear in person."

On July 16, Griffith's lawyers argued that his parents accessed Coinbase, given the run up in ETH price, to pay for counsel: "Given the impending trial date, Mr. Griffith may need to sell certain assets to fund his legal  defense. Mr. Griffith consults closely with his family on financial matters and did so even prior  to his arrest. In connection with their strategy to assess and access necessary resources to fund  his defense, and after consulting counsel, his mother made an online request to access a U.S.- based and regulated cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase... As the Court knows, Mr. Griffith was an employee of the Ethereum Foundation and was paid in  Ether (ETH), a digital asset used on the Ethereum blockchain.  At the time Mr. Griffith was  arrested in November 2019, he held some ETH and some ETC (a related cryptocurrency) in a Coinbase account worth less than $100,000. Since then, one ETH has risen from about $150 to about $1,900. The government states that the account assets are currently worth almost $1  million. Neither Mr. Griffith nor any family member acting on his behalf has had access to that account since his arrest.  With the September trial date quickly approaching, and given ETH’s current value, Mr. Griffith  has wished to know the exact contents of his Coinbase account and the value of his assets, so he  could consider transferring or selling all of part of his cryptocurrency held there to pay trialrelated expenses. As is their family culture, Mr. Griffith’s father, Dr. Robert Griffith, has been  involved and consulted in matters regarding assets and plans to pay defense counsel." Full letter on Patreon here.

  Griffith's lawyer have said the prosecutors tried to mislead Judge Castel by omitting from their quote of email to Coinbase the line that the company could contact Griffith's lawyer; they say this shows no risk of flight.

 On February 11, Judge Castel held a proceeding about who knew what before and at the conference Griffith spoke at. A stipulation or agreement has been proposed, essentially that some people know, but the DPRK / Kim government as such did not. Inner City Press live tweeted the first proceeding, here.

 And on February 23 the second proceeding, in two parts, here.

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


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