Former Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith is seeking to have sanctions violation charges against him dismissed. Griffith recently filed a motion claiming that the government’s indictment is ‘fatally flawed’ and merits the dismissal of the case.
Griffith was arrested in November 2019 by the FBI after he made a presentation at a blockchain conference in North Korea earlier in the year. The U.S. government then went on to charge him with conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). Prosecutors alleged that he taught North Korean officials how to use blockchain and digital currencies to evade U.S. sanctions.
In a motion for dismissal filed by his lawyer Brian Klein at the Southern District of New York, Griffith accused the prosecutors of “advancing through the indictment untested theories of prosecution that are fatally flawed.”
The government allegedly failed to set forth facts that amount to a criminal offense. Instead, it provided a short and vague indictment that fails to show how Griffith committed any crime, Klein said.
“Knowing full well that Mr. Griffith at most attended a conference on his own dime, and gave a highly general speech based on publicly available information – like he does almost monthly at conferences throughout the world – the government has nonetheless chosen to charge him with providing “services” to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“DPRK”).”
Griffith allegedly received no payment for his purported presentation at the North Korean blockchain event, according to Klein. As such, his conduct in North Korea doesn’t amount to a service offered. The lawyer supported his argument by citing a 2003 ruling in which New York Judge Jed Rakoff defined a service as “the performance of something useful for a fee.”
Klein said that Griffith’s purported speech in North Korea is exempted from the IEEPA and is protected by the First Amendment. The former Ethereum Foundation researcher also confined his purported remarks to information that’s already available in the public domain.
“Because of all of these serious and fatal defects, Mr. Griffith respectfully asks this Court to dismiss the indictment with prejudice.”
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