Cryptocurrency Researcher Virgil Griffith Seeks Reduced Sentence for Sanctions Violation

Former Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith seeks sentence reduction for violating US sanctions by assisting North Korea with blockchain technology, highlighting legal complexities around emerging tech and sanctions.

Bijay Laxmi
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Cryptocurrency Researcher Virgil Griffith Seeks Reduced Sentence  for Sanctions Violation

Cryptocurrency Researcher Virgil Griffith Seeks Reduced Sentence for Sanctions Violation

Virgil Griffith, a former Ethereum developer convicted of violating U.S. sanctions by providing assistance to North Korea in utilizing blockchain technology, is seeking a reduction in his 63-month prison sentence. Griffith's attorney, Glen Garrett McGorty, has submitted a letter to Judge P. Kevin Castel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, citing recently enacted revisions to U.S. sentencing guidelines that offer a two-point offense level reduction for certain 'zero-point' offenders.

Griffith was found guilty in April 2022 of illegally exporting services to North Korea by attending a blockchain conference in Pyongyang in 2019 and giving a presentation on the technology. He argues that he meets the criteria as a 'zero-point' offender under the new guidelines, which would potentially shorten his sentence by a year or more, adjusting his offense level from 26 to 24.

The defense team has requested a revised pre-sentence investigation report, a resentencing hearing, and a briefing schedule to present updated information and arguments in support of the reduction request. They are aiming for a sentence aligned with the lowest end of the new guidelines range, potentially leading to a 51-month term or even less.

Why this matters: Griffith's case highlights the complexities of technology, international relations, and legal frameworks, and the outcome of his plea could set precedents for similar cases involving the application of blockchain technology and the enforcement of sanctions laws.

Griffith's legal troubles extend beyond his imprisonment, as the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed a 10-year export privilege ban on him during his first year of incarceration, restricting his involvement in transactions involving commodities, software, or technology under U.S. export regulations. The case has been closely watched by the cryptocurrency community, as it raises questions about the boundaries of free speech and the regulation of digital assets.

Key Takeaways

  • Virgil Griffith, ex-Ethereum dev, seeks reduced 63-month sentence for violating U.S. sanctions.
  • Griffith argues he meets 'zero-point' offender criteria, potentially reducing sentence by 1+ year.
  • Defense requests revised report, resentencing hearing to align sentence with new guidelines range.
  • Griffith also faces 10-year export privilege ban, case raises questions on blockchain regulation.
  • Outcome could set precedents for cases involving blockchain tech and sanctions law enforcement.