Virgil Griffith, the ETH Foundation researcher who was charged with conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act after presenting at a blockchain conference in North Korea, is back behind bars.
Virgil Griffith was surrounded by two US Marshals and took off his belt before being taken into the holding cell. His lawyer Mr. Klein, when the Press asked, said he had no comment. Virgil’s father, whom Inner City Press previously spoke with, nodded. Podcast soon pic.twitter.com/4qPH0K3nVE
— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) July 20, 2021
Griffith was taken into custody after Judge Castel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Griffith had violated his bail. According to prosecutors, Griffith tried to access his Coinbase account on May 3 even though his bail conditions explicitly stated that, “He [Griffith] is specifically prohibited from accessing any of his cryptocurrency accounts.” So on July 9, the prosecutor wrote to the Judge requesting that Griffith be placed in custody since he violated his bail.
Four days before Griffiths bail review proceeding on July 20, Griffith’s lawyers argued that it was not Griffith who tried to access the Coinbase account, but rather, his mother.
“After consulting counsel, his mother made an online request to access a U.S.-based and regulated cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase,” according to the case notes.
To which Judge Castel responded, “His mother’s Internet use was on his behalf, and in his name.”
At the end of the day, Griffith lost, and Judge Castel ordered that Griffith be remanded—aka sent back to jail—until his trial begins in September 2021.
You can’t break the law and get away with it
The United States government may be making an example out of Griffith and his decision to speak in North Korea at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference in April 2019.
The message the U.S. government is sending the world via the United States Vs. Griffith case is that if you are a United States citizen then you can not aid and give information to sanctioned countries. The U.S. government even made an effort to prevent Griffith from speaking at the conference beforehand by denying his request to travel to North Korea. Regardless, Griffith was able to obtain the necessary documents and visa to travel into the country so that he could present at the conference—which is ultimately why ETH researcher Virgil Griffith finds himself sitting in jail today awaiting his trial.
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