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

Virgil Griffith, a former Ethereum developer, sentenced to 63 months in prison in 2022 for aiding North Korea in leveraging blockchain technology, has submitted a plea for a sentence reduction.

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 plea argues for a review of Griffith’s sentence in light of recent changes to U.S. sentencing guidelines.

These amendments include a provision allowing a two-point decrease in offense level for certain “zero-point” offenders, a qualification Griffith’s legal team claims he meets under the specified criteria.

Griffith Sentenced to 63 Months in Prison

Griffith, initially sentenced to 63 months in prison and fined $100,000 in April 2022 after pleading guilty to violating U.S. sanctions laws, engaged in attending a conference in North Korea and aiding the country in utilizing blockchain technology, despite existing economic sanctions by the United States.

The requested reduction in Griffith’s sentence aims to lower his total offense level from 26 to 24. Consequently, this adjustment would modify the sentencing guidelines range to 51 to 63 months, potentially resulting in a reduction of his term by a year or more.

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

They also request an opportunity for briefing to present updated information and arguments supporting their reduction request.

A “zero-point” offender, defined in the revised guidelines, pertains to a first-time, non-violent offender whose crime indicates a lower risk of recidivism compared to others. Griffith’s defense asserts that he falls within this classification.

Alongside his prison sentence, Griffith faced a 10-year ban on export privileges imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce in May 2023. This ban barred him from engaging in any transactions involving commodities, software, or technology subject to U.S. export regulations. It was enforced while he served 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, filed a motion to dismiss all three charges against him. He asserts that he did not operate a money laundering business and did not violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

In a submission to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Storm’s legal team argued that he cannot be accused of conspiring to launder funds. They pointed out that Tornado Cash was developed, became immutable, and was publicly available before it was utilized by the hacking groups sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Storm’s lawyers emphasized that he had limited control over preventing a “sanctioned entity from using it” by the time the alleged misconduct occurred.

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