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Ethereum Developer Virgil Griffith Sentenced to Prison After North Korea Trip

Griffith spoke at a cryptocurrency conference in April of 2019 in North Korea's capital


A forever cryptocurrency developer for the Ethereum Foundation has been sentenced to over five years in prison.

Virgil Griffith pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate international sanctions against North Korea in September of 2021.

Griffith spoke at a cryptocurrency conference in Pyongyang in April of 2019. He was arrested in November of 2019.

Federal prosecutors contend that Griffith helped North Korean officials use cryptocurrency to evade international sanctions.

Griffith has been in federal custody for the last two years. He was released on bail for 14 months of that period.

The 39-year-old will serve between 63 to 78 months in prison after accepting a plea deal. The court counted the 10 months he has already spent behind bars as time served.

United States District Judge Kevin Castel handed down Griffin’s sentence on April 12 in the Southern District Court of New York. 

The charges brought against Griffith typically come with a  maximum sentence of 20 years.

While in court, Griffith’s attorney Brian Klein asked Castel to consider the “inhumane conditions” of Brookyln’s Metropolitan Detention Center where his client is being held.

According to Klein, Griffith has spent an extended amount of time in solitary confinement because of COVID-19 outbreaks. He has also not been permitted visits from family members, has had limited access to blankets and warm clothing, and has had to use his sink as a toilet at times.

“Klein also said Griffith has been limited to two or less meals a day, usually peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, because gangs in MDC control the kitchens and the commissary,” per Coindesk.

Psychological assessments indicated Griffith has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, according to the attorney. Klien said these personality conditions compelled Griffith to travel to North Korea.

Griffith reportedly ignored specific warnings not to make the trip from the U.S. State Department.

Klein asked Castel to count the 10 months Griffith has already spent in prison as 20 months served. He also requested his client be moved to a low-security federal prison in Pennsylvania, where he has extended family.

“I’ve learned my lesson,” Griffith said to the court. “I am still profoundly embarrassed that I am here, and of what I have done.”

Editor’s Note: A previous headline for this article misstated that Griffith had been imprisoned “for” a trip to North Korea and has since been corrected for accuracy. 

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