June 21, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

Bitcoin Privacy Tested: Summary of Samourai Developers' First Court Hearing

Today, in the Southern District of New York, the first hearing was held at the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) case against Samourai Wallet developers Keonne Rodríguez and William Lonergan Hill.

The two developers were arrested at the end of April and charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transfer business.

However, only Rodriguez and his attorney, Michael Krouse, were present in the courtroom today, as Hill is still in Portugal and has not yet responded to an extradition request from the U.S. government.

The prosecution stated that it is about to begin discovery (sharing evidence it plans to use for trial with the defendants) and is prepared for trial whether Hill and Rodriguez are present or not.

Samourai Wallet developer Keonne Rodriguez leaves the courthouse in midtown Manhattan after his hearing on May 28, 2024. Photo credit: Jeremy Poley

“Substantial discovery”

Prosecutors also stated that they have yet to extract all the data from the electronic devices they have seized from Rodriguez, but will provide a “substantial discovery” based on the information they have obtained so far.

And he shared that he is still waiting for Rodríguez to give him a 2 terabyte hard drive that the defendant still has in his possession.

No details were provided about what data might be on the hard drive.

A letter from two senators

Rodriguez's attorney said he plans to file a motion to dismiss the indictment of his client and his client's partner at Samourai, citing a letter that U.S. Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland in which the two politicians argued that non-custodial cryptographic software cannot be a money transmission service.

“We write to express our serious concern regarding recent policy arguments by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that dramatically expand the scope of the federal prohibition on operating an unlicensed money transfer business,” the letter begins. .

“The Department of Justice's unprecedented interpretation of this statute in the context of non-custodial cryptoasset software services contradicts the clear intent of Congress and the authoritative guidance of the Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). This interpretation threatens to criminalize Americans who offer non-custodial cryptoasset software services,” Senators Lummis and Wyden added.

The letter also acknowledges that “providers of non-custodial crypto services cannot be classified as money transmitting companies because users of such services retain exclusive possession and control of their crypto assets.”

Going forward

The judge announced that Rodríguez would remain under house arrest and that the next hearing in the case would take place on September 4, 2024 at 11:30 a.m. EST.

Those interested in donating to the Samourai developers' legal defense fund can do so via this fundraiser created by the Bitcoin Policy Institute (BPI).

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