Lawyers suing Craig Wright for a bitcoin fortune worth as much as $10 billion will receive more than the 90 day extension they asked for.
On Thursday, the judge agreed to hold off the trial until July. That came after Wright did two things last week. First, he dumped more than 400 documents on his opponent’s lawyers at the last moment. Then he told the court that the “bonded courier” he has spent two years claiming would bring him the key slice codes necessary to access Satoshi Nakamoto’s more than 1.1 million bitcoins would arrive on Jan. 1, had in fact arrived a few days late.
The trial may not happen until July, but before that Wright will have to answer seven questions about the “bonded courier” who may—or may not—have brought him the data he needs to prove he created Bitcoin.
Attorneys for Wright, who has been hit with court sanctions for not being forthcoming, filed a document last week stating that the bonded courier had arrived and provided more information. On Friday, Decrypt reported that one of Wright’s lawyers denied that the information received included the private bitcoin keys to the Satoshi fortune. This raises a lot of questions, but Kleiman’s lawyers will only get to ask seven about the courier’s delivery.
It’s worth noting that if it is a true bonded courier or bondable courier, the information would be insured in case it is lost. If it was insured, it was probably for the original value of $100,000, not it’s current value of about $9.4 billion. The 1,100,111 bitcoins Wright said are in the “Tulip Trusts” were worth $10 billion when the suit was filed.
The lawsuit was brought by the estate of Dave Kleiman, a former Wright collaborator. Wright has said Kleiman helped create Bitcoin. Kleiman’s adopted brother Ira argues that any profits and intellectual property should be at least half his. Very few people in the cryptocurrency community believe Wright’s claim.
Along with the bonded courier questions and trial delay, this newest court document permits depositions of Wright, his wife Ramona Watts, and Andrew O’Hagan, who wrote about Wright for London Review of Books in 2015, to go forward.
Bonded courier questions
The trick here, however, is that they only have one shot at the questions and pretty much any answer counts. The old lawyer’s joke is, “If I ask you, ‘Do you have the time?’ you respond, ‘2:30.’ If a lawyer in your deposition asks if you have the time, you reply, ‘yes.’”
The questions will appear in written format, and Wright will have 10 days to answer under the judge’s order. There will be no way to rephrase one of these seven questions based on the answer to an earlier question. Therefore I would like to propose the seven that have been on my mind over the past year.
This is no easy task because the questions are limited to being about the bonded courier. I personally would have trouble with this task. I interview people for a living. The first thing you learn is that people don’t respond well to a list of questions. And sometimes it’s best to say something that seems a little off-base just to see how they would respond. I interview a lot of young people who aren’t media-trained and their publicists always ask me if they can have the questions in advance.
Here’s what I’d ask:
- How did the courier identify themselves upon arrival in a way that was satisfactory to you that they were the one Kleiman sent? Ideally the answer would give us more information about where they came from and enable us to depose him or her.
- If Dave Kleiman arranged for the bonded courier before he died in 2013 and you moved to England in 2015, how did the courier find you in London in 2020? The answer to this may tell us whether the courier service had more contact than we previously knew. Although I suspect the short answer is that a law firm under attorney-client privilege was involved.
- Did the bonded courier bring you a device like a hard drive that required an additional password or decryption which they did not provide? Note: it is very easy for Craig’s lawyers to make the argument that a complex question is really two questions.
- Did the service of the bonded courier require that you test the key slice by making any transactions that currently appear on the blockchain? For example, Dave Kleiman could have included a later block that wouldn’t raise suspicion.
- Did the bonded courier furnish you with a receipt as to how they would ascertain your identity and proof of service? Something to subpoena.
- What day and time did the bonded courier complete their service? If this took place any time before Jan 1—including years ago or not at all—it could lead to a more complex deposition in the future.
- Did the bonded courier bring information about every Tulip Trust you have created? If there is more than just the three we know about, this is how we’ll find out.
Of course I have more questions, but this is limited in scope to the human being who served as courier. Let’s move on to when we’ll get more information about the case
New Trial Dates
The trial is going ahead but not until July. The good news is that we should hear more about the bonded courier before that. Judge Beth Bloom of the Federal District court for Southern Florida set the following deadline:
- February 4, 2020: Plaintiffs shall raise any discovery disputes based on prior responses from Defendant and/or prior rulings Plaintiffs wish to revisit
- March 2, 2020: Parties are to apprise the Court on the progress of discovery by filing a joint report.
At this point we should at least know what they found from the documents of the bonded courier and Wright’s 400-part document dump.
- March 27, 2020: Parties to disclose expert witness summaries or reports or disclose new experts with summaries/reports
The last time this happened the expert Ira Kleiman’s attorneys hired accused Wright of forging a document. Only now, there are vastly more files to go through.
- April 6, 2020: Parties exchange any rebuttal expert summaries or reports.
- April 17, 2020: All discovery, including expert discovery, shall be completed.
- May 4, 2020: All pre-trial motions, motions in limine and Daubert motions (see below), are filed. This deadline includes all dispositive motions—which ask the court to throw out a claim or part of a claim.
Here is where the fun begins. Under a “Daubert motion,” judges hear arguments as to why a finding of an expert witness should be kept from the jury. An “in limne” motion is the same for evidence submitted.
For example, Wright’s attorneys could argue that the expert witness who claimed his 2012 document used a font from 2015 should be kept from the jury. They would have to make a convincing argument that it is not possible to prove whether the document used this font because it was written in 2015 or if the software that scanned the document in 2015 added this font’s timestamp.
- June 15, 2020: Parties submit joint pre-trial stipulations, … proposed jury instructions, and verdict form, or proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, as applicable.
Then the real fun begins.
“THIS CAUSE is now set for trial during the Court’s two-week trial calendar beginning on July 6, 2020, at 9:00 a.m,” Bloom’s order said. “Calendar call will be held at 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30, 2020.”
Does anybody know if it’s hot in Florida in July? Asking for me. Because I totally wanna go!
Finally, depositions for Wright, Watts and O’Hagan—a journalist in another country who is submitting to Ira Kleiman’s subpoena, unlike yours truly. (Sullivan is fighting an order to be deposed, on principle, and believes any journalist should do the same. —Ed.) O’Hagan will answer questions about the story he wrote 2015. All three will schedule their depositions shortly after the bonded courier questions.
Edited at 2:06 a.m. on April 21, 2020 to correct byline.