The ongoing Granath v Wright trial in Norway is on its third day, and plaintiff Magnus Granath and defendant Dr. Craig S. Wright have taken the stand. The Judge and the audience in the court got a closer look at the parties directly involved in this defamation trial.
Granath is the man behind Twitter user “Hodlonaut,” who became popular in the world of cryptocurrency after the success of his Lightning Network torch campaign in February 2019. Wright became a public figure when he was outed as Satoshi Nakamoto in 2015, the pseudonymous author of the Bitcoin whitepaper.
In March 2019, then-anonymous Hodlonaut posted a series of offensive tweets targeting Wright and calling him a “pathetic scammer,” “mentally ill,” “trash” and “a fraud,” among other things. Granath also started a “#CraigWrightIsAFraud week” that quickly gained traction.
In April 2019, Wright’s legal counsel sent Hodlonaut via Twitter a notice asking for a public letter of apology stating that he was wrong in calling Wright a fraud and that he acknowledges Wright to be Satoshi Nkatomoto. It also called for the tweets to be deleted. If Hodlonaut complies, Wright will consider them even and not file a lawsuit.
Hodlonaut’s tweets were deleted, but there was no letter of apology. Instead, Granath started legal proceedings in Oslo, Norway, against Wright in May 2019 aiming to establish that the tweets in question were not defamatory, but were lawful and thus fall under the protection of the country’s freedom of speech and expression law. This move also revealed Hodlonaut’s identity to the public.
In June 2019, Wright also filed a libel lawsuit against Granath in the United Kingdom High Court. The case is ongoing and a trial date is yet to be set. However, even before trial began, the UK High Court had already ordered Granath to pay Wright a total of £303,000 (plus VAT) in legal costs.
As Granath takes the stand, people in the courtroom are given a clearer idea of who he really is after hiding anonymously behind the Hodlonaut handle. He is 45 years old and has been a primary school teacher for a decade until his resignation in the summer of 2019.
Granath has also had training in information technology (IT) and has worked as a system developer, providing some technical background for his involvement in Bitcoin. He has also held the position of Head of Technology for Norway-based BTC investment firm Seetee and is now working as an editor for Citadel21, a BTC magazine.
Granath came across as extremely confident and unbending in his beliefs as he was questioned by both his lawyers and the defense. When asked by his lawyer to explain a tweet where he explicitly calls the BTC community and himself “rabid and toxic maximalists,” he replied that their motto is “You have Bitcoin [BTC] and then you have the shitcoins.”
Granath went on further to explain that they do not take offense in being called “toxic,” but instead are proud of it because it means that they are uncompromising in their belief that BTC is Bitcoin and nothing else matters.
When asked about why he did not comply with Wright’s legal notice and admit that Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto to avoid this lawsuit, Granath said, “It’s a necessary job on behalf of Bitcoin [BTC] and Bitcoiners. That’s how I feel about this.”
During cross-examination, defense counsel Halvor Manshaus asked Granath, “Did you explain in any way or try to substantiate your statements by making reference to what you meant?” To this, Granath answered in the negative, explaining that, “I make no attempt to provide my basis. I was claiming it as truth because that was the consensus in my environment.”
The Judge then asked Granath what his environment would be. To which he replied, “People who believe BTC is Bitcoin.” Granath was consistent in his testimony that he believed Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto and is a fraud because that was the consensus in the BTC community, going as far as citing famous Bitcoiners and treating them as experts who have the same view.
Wright’s testimony began on an emotional note as Manshaus questioned him about how he felt about being called “a fraud.” Wright replied, “Very badly. I’ve worked with law enforcement and trained courts and military, and being called a criminal when I’ve only worked with prosecution is something I take very seriously.”
Wright then went on to explain how being called “mentally ill” also became very personal, having been diagnosed at 16 with autism and later on being bullied in high school for being different.
“I’m autistic. When I was in high school, I was bullied. That’s what this is. It’s a person encouraging other bullies to harass people over the Internet. People commit suicide. People like this are attempting to bully others into submission,” Wright said.
Wright became visibly upset as he recalled receiving threats through direct message, with a particular one reading, “Your slant-eyed Asian wife is a f***ing slut and we’re going to have her and your half-cast daughter raped.”
After this, Wright went into detail about his family and how his grandfather influenced him to take a keen interest in cryptography and in Japan, which would explain what led him to invent Bitcoin and his choice of a Japanese pseudonym.
Wright also detailed his credentials, even having a hand in designing the architecture of the world’s first online casino Lasseters, to show that he has more than enough expertise to invent Bitcoin. Wright also recounted the minutes of a meeting he had with BDO where he pitched a “P2P ecash” white paper due to be released in 2008, even mentioning names of people he was in the meeting with who can corroborate his story.
Wright’s cross-examination centered mostly on whether or not he has the Satoshi keys and if he can sign using those keys to prove he is who he claims he is. Wright explained that the Tulip Trust actually holds his Bitcoin assets and that a separate Tulip Trust software using a Shamir Secret Sharing Scheme allowed for the keys to be divided and given to a certain number of people. Only when all the keys are together will it enable access to the Satoshi coins.
The day ended on a rough note for Wright as the Judge questioned him on why he chose not to sign using the Satoshi keys to prove that he is indeed Satoshi Nakamoto and end all questions about his identity instead of going through the tedious and much more difficult process of lawsuits and trials.
Wright stated that the act of signing using keys does not prove identity, but instead only proves possession, and that Bitcoin is so much more than just signing keys. According to Wright, he chose to go down a more difficult path in proving his identity as Satoshi Nakamoto, which involves gathering 100 people who can attest to his identity in court, in order for people to pay better attention to his life’s work.
The defamation trial is expected to wrap up on September 21. Because it is not a jury trial, the Judge will have a period of deliberation before announcing the verdict.
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