It’s cryptoland’s white Bronco, drudging down an L.A. interstate—we just can’t turn away.
Craig Wright, who claims to be the creator of Bitcoin, is heading to a Florida courtroom on Friday, where he faces the very real possibility of losing a $10 billion lawsuit—or worse.
Wright is staring down the barrel of civil and potentially even criminal sanctions if he doesn’t give the court exactly what it wants: a very good reason why he can’t deliver a detailed record of all the bitcoin that he’s mined. And it appears that he’ll have to do it while facing the same cryptography expert who previously called some of Wright’s evidence a forgery.
It all stems from a year-long lawsuit initiated by the estate of Dave Kleiman, a computer scientist who, according to the complaint, helped Wright “invent” Bitcoin under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The lawsuit claims that when Kleiman died in April 2013, Wright engaged in a scheme to deny Kleiman of 1.1 million bitcoin that the former business partners jointly owned.
As part of the discovery process in the case, the court has ordered Wright to reveal the details of several blind trusts—including the legendary Tulip Trust, which supposedly holds the contents of Satoshi’s 1 million bitcoins—in which Wright claims to have locked up the bitcoin that he’s mined.
And while Wright has provided the court with some of the records that it seeks, including a list of the public addresses associated with the first 70 bitcoin blocks that he allegedly mined, nChain’s chief scientist has repeatedly claimed that the rest is simply out of his hands. In a filing in May, unsealed by the court last week, Wright asserted that access to the “encrypted file that contains the public addresses and their associated private keys to the Bitcoin that I mined, requires myself and combination of trustees referenced in Tulip Trust I to unlock based on Shamir scheme.”
The idea that Wright is unable to access those bitcoin addresses because the secret key to the trust is divided among several parties is, evidently, not reason enough for the court. A judge has ordered Wright to appear in a Florida courtroom on Friday for a “show cause” hearing and explain why he shouldn’t be sanctioned or held in contempt by the court for his non-compliance, as confirmed by Ira Kleiman’s attorney in a statement on Twitter:
In preparation for Friday’s showdown, the Kleiman estate gave notice to the court yesterday that it plans to call its cryptography expert, Dr. Matthew J. Edman, back to the stand. Edman, who previously assisted the FBI in its case against Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht, testified in April that he believed an email that Wright’s team entered into evidence in his defense was a fake.
In response, Wright filed a notice today that laid out his own list of crypto experts that he plans to call in his defense—namely, himself.
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That’s a risky move, and “highly unusual,” said Matthew Kohen, a senior attorney with Carlton Fields, based in Florida. “This would necessarily subject him to cross examination on the record,” he said.
The sentiment was echoed by Stephen Palley, a crypto lawyer with Anderson Kill, PC, who similarly noted Wright’s potentially perilous play on Twitter:
Kohen, however, is less bullish on the severity of the consequences that Wright potentially faces. While “the magistrate may assess monetary or other sanctions (something less severe than contempt) against [Craig Wright] for failure to comply with discovery orders,” Kohen said, it’s unlikely that he’ll be held in civil or criminal contempt by the end of Friday’s hearing.
That said, Kohen believes Wright could still ultimately face charges of contempt from a district judge depending on how the hearing shakes out.
Interestingly, among the recent series of orders issued by the court in recent days, the Kleiman estate was also granted an unopposed motion to bring in “electronic equipment” into the courtroom.
Is it possible that we’re in store for the full Court TV treatment for Friday’s clash?
No such luck, says Kohen. But it does suggest that the Kleiman estate is coming prepared to do all it can, through digital representations of documents or other exhibits, to shut the door on Wright’s evasive legal maneuvering. And it could also mean that the plaintiffs in this case plan to videotape Wright’s deposition, said Kohen, which is also set to be reopened under the judge’s supervision on Friday—video that would surely be of great interest to the crypto public.
After all, at the heart of this case rests lingering questions of the true origins of the Internet’s magic money—the identity of the pseudonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto, and the location of those precious million bitcoin that he mined.
The next act in this drama will be played out in classic courtroom theater, with expert pitted against self-professed Creator. And with Wright placing himself on the stand, opening himself up to a new level of scrutiny, keen observers on either side of the “real Satoshi” debate will undoubtedly search for clues that back their cause.
So if the cryptographic gloves don’t fit, what will Wright be forced to admit?