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Crypto Advocacy Groups Support Tornado Cash Developer in Legal Battle – Here’s the Latest

Ruholamin Haqshanas
Last updated: | 2 min read
Crypto advocacy groups have come to the support of Roman Storm, the developer of Tornado Cash

Crypto advocacy groups have come to the support of Roman Storm, the developer of Tornado Cash, in his ongoing legal battle. 

Storm, who was arrested in August and charged with three counts related to his role as a co-founder of the Ethereum privacy protocol, recently filed a motion to drop the charges against him. 

He argued that the government’s argument was flawed in its understanding of Tornado Cash’s service and blockchain technology.

Three prominent pro-crypto organizations, Coin Center, the Blockchain Association, and the DeFi Education Fund, have filed amicus briefs in support of Storm. 

While each brief was written and filed separately, they all make similar arguments against the government’s indictment.

US Says Storm Operated as Unregistered Money Transmitter

The government’s indictment alleges that Storm and his co-founder Roman Semenov engaged in the business of transferring funds on behalf of the public without registering Tornado Cash with the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). 

This led to the charge of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business. 

However, the Blockchain Association’s brief highlights that FinCEN’s own definitions contradict this characterization. 

According to the brief, intermediaries can only be liable as money transmitters if they exercise total independent control over the assets, which is not the case with Tornado Cash. 

The brief warns that if the government’s interpretation stands, it would essentially ban anonymizing protocols and make compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act impossible for developers.

Coin Center’s brief focuses on arguments against the count of conspiracy to violate the International Economic Emergency Powers Act (IEEPA) and provides a First Amendment defense. 

It argues that the conspiracy count should not hold up since the decisions regarding Tornado Cash’s functionality and release were made long before any knowledge of alleged sanctions violations. 

The brief draws an analogy to developers of the Linux open-source operating system, stating that it would be like suggesting they confederated with a regime merely by releasing a valuable computing tool that the regime later used for its own purposes.

“Publishing decisions over the functionality of the software and how to release it were made long before any knowledge of the [North Korean state-sponsored hackers] Lazarus Group’s activities could have even existed,” the brief argues.

DeFi Education Fund Challenges Charges Against Storm

The DeFi Education Fund’s brief also challenges the charges and presents a concerning scenario if Storm were to lose the case. 

It argues that validating the theories of liability put forward by the government would grant them unlimited power to prosecute software developers for code that is later used by third parties for nefarious purposes. 

This lack of a limiting principle could expose developers of open-source software to criminal liability for activities beyond their control years or even decades later.

“With no limiting principle in place, nearly all developers who create open-source software would be exposed to criminal liability for activity outside of their control years or decades later.”

At present, government prosecutors have not responded to Storm’s motion to dismiss the charges.