The seven-day defamation trial in Oslo, Norway involving two of the more popular names within the cryptocurrency space is within schedule and nearing its end. The defense already called in its last three witnesses, after which the plaintiff began presenting its closing argument on the sixth day of the Granath v Wright trial.
The plaintiff in this case is Magnus Granath, more popular for his then-anonymous Twitter handle “Hodlonaut.” After being followed and retweeted by celebrities like former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and actor William Shatner due to the success of his Lightning Network Torch Chain campaign in February 2019, Hodlonaut achieved near-celebrity status within the BTC community.
The defendant is nChain Chief Scientist Craig S. Wright, who was outed by Wired and Gizmodo magazines in 2015 as the pseudonymous author of the Bitcoin whitepaper, Satoshi Nakamoto. Since then, Wright has admitted that he is indeed Satoshi Nakamoto and the one who invented Bitcoin. Wright’s claim has been disputed by many within Bitcoin, asserting that he is a fraud and not Satoshi Nakamoto.
Many lawsuits have been filed because of this issue. Kleiman v Wright and Wright v McCormack are two of the most recent trials that had piqued the world’s interest. In the first, Ira Kleiman sued Wright attempting to claim half of the 1.1 million Satoshi coins worth over $70 billion at that time with the allegation that his deceased brother and Wright’s friend, David Kleimain, was Wright’s partner in creating Bitcoin.
The second is a defamation case, much like this one, wherein Wright sued popular blogger Peter McCormack after the latter claimed on social media that Wright was “a liar” and “a fraud.” Wright won in both cases, but questions about his identity still remain.
In the current trial in Norway, Granath was previously warned by Wright on Twitter that he would be facing defamation charges if he did not take down nine of his tweets in March 2019 claiming Wright to be “a fraud,” “mentally ill,” “a pathetic scammer” and “trash,” post a public apology, and admit that Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto. Hodlonaut’s campaign against Wright culminated in him declaring the “#CraigWrightIsAFraud week.”
While Granath deactivated his Twitter account for some time, he did not post a public letter of apology. Instead, he initiated court proceedings in May 2019 in his home country to prove that his tweets did not defame Wright and can be protected under Norway’s freedom of speech, which states that an individual is allowed to express their opinions about public figures and search for the truth.
It must be noted that there is also an ongoing case in the United Kingdom after Wright sued Granath for defamation in June 2019. Although a trial date has yet to be set, Granath has already been ordered by the UK High Court to pay Wright a total of £303,000 (plus VAT).
Another factor, in this case, is the fact that after Wright sent a legal warning to Hodlonaut via Twitter in April 2019, BTC maximalists rallied to join the fight. This has resulted in Binance and three other crypto exchanges delisting BSV, the Bitcoin implementation supported by Wright that has restored the original Bitcoin protocol. A separate landmark case worth £9.9 billion has been filed by BSV Claims Ltd against the four exchanges on behalf of about 240,000 BSV investors.
Craig Wright is not Satoshi.— CZ 🔶 Binance (@cz_binance) April 12, 2019
Anymore of this sh!t, we delist! https://t.co/hrnt3fDACq
The Granath v Wright trial so far has seen witnesses on both sides claiming that Wright is or is not Satoshi Nakamoto based on expert testimony and presented evidence, most already used in the Kleiman v Wright case.
Although proving the identity of Wright as Satoshi Nakamoto is not the end-all and be-all of the trial as it is a defamation case, it is a crucial point for the plaintiff to prove that Wright fraudulently claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto in order to establish that Granath did not defame Wright.
On the side of the defense, just laying doubts to the plaintiff’s argument that Wright is a fraud would bid well for their case. Hence, character and expert witnesses have been on the stand to prove that Wright is indeed Satoshi Nakamoto, and he has spoken to people about key Bitcoin concepts even before the Bitcoin whitepaper was published in October 2008.
The last witnesses called by the plaintiff to the stand on Day 5 were technical experts from digital forensics and auditing firm KPMG. The three witnesses from KPMG testified about the analysis reports they have done on at least seven emails between David Kleiman and Wright. Their conclusion was that the emails have been manipulated.
According to Chief Bitcoin Historian Kurt Wuckert Jr. reporting at the scene in Norway, the KPMG testimony was so technical that even the Judge, who used to be an intellectual property lawyer and could follow the more technical concepts of Bitcoin and blockchain, seemed to be confused and even asked to take a longer break.
Day 6 of Granath v Wright saw two technical experts from global auditing firm BDO and one from leading UK digital forensics firm CYFOR take the stand for the defense. Their testimonies show that KPMG was not able to present details about its testing environment used in analyzing the emails; hence, their tests could not be replicated for validation.
The experts from BDO and CYFOR also found inconsistencies with the results of their analyses with those of KPMG. For instance, the KPMG checksum for the Bitcoin white paper uploaded to SSRN did not match with the checksum of the document available for download from SSRN at present. Lawyer for the defendant Halvor Manshaus of Norwegian law firm Schjodt also questioned KPMG witnesses during their time at the stand, but they were not able to explain the discrepancy.
One of the two witnesses from BDO, Thomas Dahl, pointed out that what KPMG did was to look for any signs of manipulation within the documents analyzed—as if guilt has already been presumed. According to Dahl, when it comes to analyzing documents, there should be a focus on impartiality, to be able to look at the innocence and guilt at the same time before drawing conclusions.
Dahl also testified that analyzing documents from 2008 should be done with caution, and examining carefully the chain of custody and chain of evidence is crucial. There are a lot of possibilities that would alter metadata. It could be that the change occurred during transfer from a computer to another computer, and even antivirus software could contribute to modifications in metadata. It could also be that a document was unintentionally modified by people who have viewed the document.
Experts from BDO and CYFOR concluded witness testimonies on both sides. Ørjan Salvesen Haukaas, Granath’s lead counsel, then began his closing arguments, which is essentially a summary of what they were trying to prove with the witnesses. Haukaas started out strong by stating that Wright is using defamatory lawsuits in order to prove he is Satoshi Nakamoto.
Haukaas continued to say that there is no definitive proof that Wright is Satoshi; Wright would not even use the Satoshi keys to sign and establish his identity; hence, Granath’s tweets represent the doubts of an individual and should not be considered defamatory under Norway’s freedom of speech.
Haukaas then enumerated the character and expert witnesses presented by the defense and discussed in detail why they should not be considered valid witnesses. According to Haukaas, the fact that Jon Matonis and Gavin Andresen who witnessed the Satoshi signing are not present as witnesses should raise a red flag.
The junior lawyer for the plaintiff then took over and discussed the three questions key in establishing defamation in Norway. The first question is about how statements are interpreted by readers. Second is whether the statement in itself is true or not, and whether someone is accused of doing something that society will condemn. And last, whether the statements were done in violation of the law.
The closing arguments will continue Wednesday, September 21. September 20 has earlier been declared a break due to scheduling conflicts.
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