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Ethereum Dev Virgil Griffith Pleads Not Guilty to Violating North Korea Sanctions

Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act on Thursday.

Griffith was arrested in November on allegations he spoke at a cryptocurrency conference in North Korea last year, where he allegedly taught his audience how to use cryptos to evade sanctions. A complaint published by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York claimed Griffith detailed how crypto could be used to launder money, and may even have tried to facilitate a transaction between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea.

A grand jury indicted him earlier this month, and Griffith was released on bail.

Griffith’s attorney, Brian Klein, said in a statement that Griffith “should not have been indicted.”

“We are going to vigorously contest the charge and look forward to getting all the facts in front of the jury at trial,” he said at the time.

If convicted, Griffith would face a maximum of 20 years in jail.

Assistant U.S Attorney Michael Krauss said Thursday the government has already produced an initial set of documents for discovery, including statements Griffith made to the FBI. The government anticipates making a second production within two weeks.

Klein, Griffith's attorney, asked Judge P. Kevin Castel if the defense would be able to obtain records pertaining to any interviews the FBI held with other conference attendees, particularly any attendees who might be able to refute the allegations. "We anticipate these other attendees will exonerate our client," Klein said.

Krauss said the defense had no basis to make the request, but the government would comply with production requirements under federal rules of civil procedure.

Judge Castel did not make a firm ruling on the request, instead telling Klein, "If there's an application under [the rules], I would expect you and encourage you to make it as soon as possible."

Klein and Krauss declined to comment after the hearing.

A status update hearing is tentatively scheduled for March 17.

Griffith attended Thursday's hearing in a gray suit.

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