Five-year Jail Term: Has Virgil Griffith Become Ethereum’s Ross Ulbricht?

Virgil Griffith. Source: a video screenshot, ETC Cooperative / YouTub

Back in 2015, Ross Ulbricht – the creator and main operator of the darknet marketplace Silk Road – was handed a double life sentence with no chance of parole, plus an additional 40-year term and a USD 183,961,921 fine. Silk Road’s currency of choice was bitcoin (BTC), and while there’s no doubt that the darknet more than lived up to its name, one can only speculate that the American legal system relished the chance to ramp up the spectacular in the sentencing process to effectively lock Ulbricht up and throw away the key.

Bitcoin crime has its poster boy in Ulbricht, who will almost certainly spend the rest of his days in the United States prison system. Rightly so, some might say. But when you look at the charges he was actually convicted of – money laundering, conspiracy to commit computer hacking, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics – some might argue that such crimes, generally speaking, do not get punished with double (or triple) life sentences in the USA.

So much for Ulbricht. The ethereum (ETH) community has now seen one of its own, Virgil Griffith – a former developer and a personal friend of the co-founder Vitalik Buterin – locked up for five-plus years for giving a talk at a crypto conference in 2019.

Of course, this wasn’t just any old conference. It was held in North Korea. And it wasn’t just any old talk. It covered matters including how to use blockchain technology to evade economic sanctions. The USA and the UN believe Pyongyang views crypto (and crypto hacking) as a means of raising money to pay for its nuclear and ballistic missile program.