Sweet home Alabama — Virgil Griffith free on $1M bail to live with parents

Screen Shot 2019-12-30 at 3.35.28 PMLast week, after a denial of bail, it looked like Virgil Griffith, the Ethereum Foundation developer who was arrested on Thanksgiving Day for allegedly violating sanctions and traveling to North Korea, was doomed to be spending months behind bars awaiting trial.

Now things are looking up. In an appeal of Thursday’s order, a Southern District of New York judge today granted his release pending $1 million bail. He won’t be headed back to Singapore where he lives, though. Instead, he’ll be going to Alabama — or “Sweet Home Alabama,” to borrow from rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd — to stay with his parents for a year, or however long it takes, to sort out the massive mess he’s gotten himself into. 

“We are very pleased the district judge sided with us and ordered Virgil to be released pending trial, Griffith’s lawyer, Brian Klein of Baker Marquart LLP, told me via email. Klein did not comment on how long it would take Griffith to be released from custody. 

Griffith’s sister and parents are putting up their homes to secure the bail, according to a  report by Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press — who said in a live tweet thread that he was the only reporter attending Griffith’s hearing today. 

Along with Klein, Griffith’s father sat in the courtroom today, watching the fate of his son unfold. The presiding judge was Vernon Broderick. 

Only four days earlier, in a separate hearing, also reported by Inner City Press, a different judge, Barbara Moses, denied Griffith’s bail. In making the decision, she cited Griffith’s text messages to his parents about renouncing his U.S. citizenship and setting up a money laundering business in North Korea.  

“Laws in this country are not suggestions… Assisting foreign governments with money laundering is illegal,” Broderick told Griffith in court today, according to Lee’s tweets. 

“If you were in North Korea, you wouldn’t be having a bond hearing,” he added. 

Klein pointed out that Griffith is not charged with money laundering, but sanctions violations. Virgil is “verbose and provocative,” he told the judge, according to Lee.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Krause argued that the prospect of jail time could make Griffith want to flee and that he might have assets out of the country. He pointed out that Griffith had been making plans to renounce citizenship, according to Lee.

Although Griffith had considered renouncing U.S. citizenship, he didn’t do it, Klein said.

In the end, Broderick agreed to the bail. He also ruled that Griffith will be allowed to e-mail with his lawyers, and even use his passport card for travel, once he gets himself an Alabama state identification, according to Inner City Press.

 

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