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Former Ethereum Developer Virgil Griffith Seeks Sentence Reduction for Assisting North Korea with Blockchain Technology

Ruholamin Haqshanas
Last updated: | 2 min read
Former Ethereum Developer Virgil Griffith Seeks Sentence Reduction

Former Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith, who was sentenced to 63 months in prison in 2022 for assisting North Korea in utilizing blockchain technology, has filed a request for a sentence reduction. 

The plea was presented in a letter from Griffith’s attorney, Glen Garrett McGorty, to Judge Kevin Castel of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on April 17.

The letter argues for a revision of Griffith’s sentence based on recent amendments to U.S. sentencing guidelines. 

These revisions include a provision for a two-point offense level reduction for certain “zero-point” offenders. 

Griffith’s legal team asserts that he qualifies for this reduction under the outlined criteria.

Griffith Sentenced to 63 Months in Prison

Griffith was originally sentenced to 63 months in prison and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine in April 2022 after pleading guilty to violating U.S. sanctions laws. 

His offense involved attending a conference in North Korea and providing assistance to the country in using blockchain technology, despite economic sanctions imposed by the United States.

The requested reduction in Griffith’s sentence would result in a lowering of his total offense level from 26 to 24.

This would correspondingly adjust the guidelines range for his sentence to 51 to 63 months, potentially reducing his term by a year or more.

In the letter, Griffith’s defense team urges the court to instruct the U.S. Probation Office to prepare a revised pre-sentence investigation report and schedule a resentencing hearing. 

They also seek an opportunity for briefing to present updated information and arguments in support of their reduction request.

A “zero-point” offender, as defined in the revised guidelines, refers to a first-time, non-violent offender whose crime demonstrates a lower risk of recidivism compared to others. 

Griffith’s defense contends that he falls within this category.

In addition to his prison sentence, Griffith also faced a 10-year ban on export privileges imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce in May 2023. 

This ban prohibited him from engaging in any transactions involving commodities, software, or technology subject to U.S. export regulations. The ban was instituted while he was serving the initial year of his five-year sentence.

Tornado Cash Developer Challenges Charges

Last month, Roman Storm, co-founder of the cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash, submitted a motion to dismiss all three charges against him, claiming that he did not operate a money laundering business and did not violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

In a filing with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Storm’s lawyers argued that he cannot be accused of conspiring to launder funds.

According to Storm’s legal team, Tornado Cash was developed, became immutable, and was publicly available before it was utilized by the hacking groups that were sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury. 

They said that Storm had limited control over preventing a “sanctioned entity from using it” by the time the alleged misconduct occurred.