Thursday, November 26, 2020

Ethereum researcher Virgil Griffith files motion to dismiss North Korea conspiracy charge

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Virgil Griffith, the former Ethereum Foundation researcher accused of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, filed a motion on Thursday to dismiss the charge against him on the grounds that prosecutors from the Southern District of New York have failed to properly state Griffith’s crime. 

Griffith, 37, was arrested by FBI agents on Nov. 28th, 2019 following a presentation at a conference in North Korea in April. 

Prosecutors allege that at the conference Griffith rendered services to the North Korean government in the form of “valuable information” he provided to DPRK officials, and that he “participated in conversations” about how to use blockchain technology to avoid sanctions. 

Griffith, meanwhile, contends that his presentation was a “highly general speech based on publicly available information.”

Thursday’s motion to dismiss the charge now hinges on whether or not planning and giving this presentation can be interpreted as a conspiracy to violate sanctions. 

In the motion, Griffith argues that because he was not paid for his attendance and was not under contract as a consultant, he was not providing a “service” to the DPRK, and that his speech is protected from U.S. government prohibition under the First Amendment. 

Additionally, Griffith argues that his presentation explicitly falls under an exemption in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act for the sharing of “information” and “information materials.” 

The motion added: 

“If the speech Mr. Griffith purportedly gave is not ‘information,’ then nothing is.” 

As Cointelegraph has previously reported, Griffith’s case has divided the crypto community. 

In December, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin defended Griffith, saying:

“I don’t think what Virgil did gave DPRK any kind of real help in doing anything bad. He delivered a presentation based on publicly available info about open-source software. There was no weird hackery ‘advanced tutoring.’ […] Virgil made no personal gain from the trip. […] I hope U.S.A. […] focuses on genuine and harmful corruption that it and all countries struggle with rather than going after programmers delivering speeches.”