Former Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith has been sentenced to 63-78 months in prison along with a $100,000 fine for traveling to North Korea and helping its people leverage cryptocurrencies to evade sanctions. Griffith was arrested in November 2019 after delivering a talk at a cryptocurrency conference in Pyongyang in the same year and has been in custody since then.
Although the maximum penalty for this crime is 20 years, the developer's plea deal has brought down the sentence's duration to 5-6.5 years. Since Griffith has been in custody for two years including 14 months on bail, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel will count the 10 months he actually spent in prison as time served.
Interestingly, Griffith's defense did request the judge to count the 10 months as 20 instead because of the "inhumane" conditions at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), where Griffith was imprisoned. His attorney also cited COVID-19 restrictions, limited access to warm clothing, and lack of family visits in requesting what is essentially a reduced sentence. It was also requested that Griffith should be relocated to Allenwood Low, which is a low-security federal prison. Medical reasons were cited too, and Griffith himself taking the stand to say that he wrongly believed that he knew better when he traveled to North Korea despite friends and family telling him not to do so.
However, the judge was not moved by any of these arguments and even cited a photo of Griffith wearing North Korean attire at the Pyongyang cryptocurrency conference, standing in front of a whiteboard that said "No sanctions!" with a smiley face. The judge concluded that "this guy is willing to play both sides of the street as long as he is the center of attention".
As it stands, Griffith will spend at least 53 more months (~5 years) in prison and will be fined $100,000. Both the judge and the prosecution claim that the relatively strict ruling will also deter U.S. citizens from violating sanctions in the future, especially with the ongoing Ukraine-Russia situation.