Returning to New York to participate in the first hearing of the case that sees him on the dock for violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act Virgil Griffith, among the best known faces of the ethereum developer community, has declared himself innocent before the judge Castel (who chairs the New York Southern District Court); if the verdict sees him guilty Virgil would risk up to 20 years in prison for the simple fact of having participated as a speaker at a press conference in North Korea.
For those who missed this bad story, remember that Griffith had decided to go to this conference anyway despite the explicit prohibition placed by the US state department; in this sense, the developer was certainly very naive, however, he must be acknowledged that he had the courage not to bow to a directive which, clearly, appears unconstitutional and which limits the freedom of movement of US citizens.
We remember, in fact, that this question is actually much older than one might believe; During the Cold War years, U.S. citizens were banned from traveling to Cuba, however the ban was found unconstitutional.
The accusations against Virgil appear clearly inconsistent, not only because telling a person where he can or cannot go clearly limits his freedom but because nothing of what the developer may have said during the conference is able to add even just an additional detail to what is already available for free online.
Virgil, in other words, could not have helped the Koreans in any way to circumvent the sanctions for the simple fact that if the Koreans wanted to evade the sanctions through the use of cryptocurrency (which they probably already do) they would certainly not need the help from an American developer; among other things, the North Koreans are not exactly home runners in terms of technology, we are talking about a country that has managed to set itself apart, let alone if it would not be able to understand how to exploit blockchain transactions.
As part of the trial, the defense asked if before prosecuting the arrest, the prosecution had interrogated some eyewitness, who somehow supported the accusatory system, probably alluding to an Italian developer, also present at the same conference, who He immediately said he was willing to testify that Virgil only talked about technology and never even accidentally mentioned the possibility of using blockchain infrastructures to evade sanctions.
The next stage of the trial is now moving to March 17, the last date that Judge Castel has granted to the government to collect further evidence; we will obviously continue to follow the case as new developments arise.
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