Judge Rejects Virgil Griffith’s Motion to Dismiss Charges of Aiding North Korea

Virgil Griffith’s motion to dismiss charges of violating US sanctions law in North Korea was denied late Friday by a judge in the southern borough of New York (SDNY).

U.S. Judge Kevin Castel denied the motion, leaving it to a jury to determine whether Griffith is guilty of helping North Koreans circumvent U.S. economic sanctions using cryptocurrency. SDNY prosecutors allege Griffith violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by giving a speech at the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference in April on how to use cryptocurrency to evade US sanctions.

Griffith’s team has argued that initial amendment rights protected him and that he was not “serving” North Korea as he received no compensation for the speech.

“The failure to claim that Griffith was paid a fee by the DPRK does not defeat the charges,” Castel wrote. “The indictment alleges that one of the objects of the conspiracy was to provide services to the DPRK.” This is sufficient and includes providing useful labor or human effort, whether or not compensation has been considered. “

The US State Department banned all US citizens from traveling to North Korea without express permission in 2017. As of today’s ruling, Griffith’s application was initially denied by the State Department, but was later approved by the DRPK’s UN mission in Manhattan after sending copies of his mission’s resume, passport and declaring his desire to attend the conference.

In today’s ruling, the judge also denied Griffith’s request for a bill. In December 2020, Griffith’s attorneys filed documents arguing that he was unsure of what he was accused of saying or doing.

“Griffith claims he is in the dark about the services he is accused of accusing the DPRK,” Castel wrote. “But Griffith’s briefing before this court makes it clear that he has learned much of the government evidence through discovery. He seeks the list of details not only as a means of getting facts but also to narrow the evidence at the trial. As mentioned earlier, a list of claims is not a detection tool to narrow government evidence. “