Dec. 6 (Reuters) – Bitcoin trader, libertarian activist and radio personality Ian Freeman faces trial on Tuesday as the country is in a bad mood over the cryptocurrency.
When federal agents raided his Keene home in March 2021 and filed charges of money laundering, wire fraud and tax evasion against the freedom-loving attorney, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were hot investments.
Now the value of the cryptocurrency has plummeted, crypto exchange FTX has collapsed, and congressional hearings and court cases have shown an ugly side of right-wing groups deciding to take the law into their own hands, said David Vicinanzo, a Manchester lawyer and former federal prosecutor.
“It’s a bit like the blush is from the (cryptocurrency) rose,” Vicinanzo said. “At least now the possibility of cheating in its use is paramount.”
Jury selection in the US District Court in Concord is expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. If all goes well, prosecution and defense attorneys could make opening arguments within hours.
Freeman faces charges of money laundering, tax evasion and operating an unlicensed money transfer business.
The process begins with a good grade for Freeman. In recent days, prosecutors dropped 17 of the 25 charges he faced. Most of them dealt with bank fraud and wire fraud.
“That’s probably because of what we’ve been telling them all along,” said Mark Sisti, Freeman’s defense attorney.
Sisti pointed to a recent US Supreme Court decision to hear an appeal of the Buffalo Billions conviction. The court heard this case late last month.
It was a businessman who withheld information when bidding for a government contract and was convicted of wire fraud.
Freeman is accused of defrauding banks in the Keene area where he opened accounts. But like the Buffalo Billions case, no one was hurt, Sisti said.
“The banks actually made money off of Ian,” Sisti said.
Sisti dismissed any notion that Freeman was causing harm by national sentiment regarding cryptocurrencies. The judge will brief the jury on how to deal with such issues, he said.
And while Freeman holds anti-government views, he does not advocate violence and has never been charged with anything related to the January 6 riot.
The process is expected to attract many people.
A website thecryptosix.com was created focusing on the charges against Freeman and five co-defendants who either agreed to plead pleadings or had their charges dropped.
The site provides links for donations to fund their defense. And it promises to post test updates on three social media sites. According to the website, a protest outside the courthouse is planned for Monday evening, December 12.
Judge Joseph Laplante’s courtroom has four benches and is one of the largest courtrooms in the courthouse.
Officials have set up an overflow room for a video broadcast and for bystanders who refuse to wear a mask in the courtroom.
The process, which could take up to three weeks and begins in the middle of the Christmas season. Jury selection is likely slowed by people saying they can’t serve, citing travel plans or other commitments.
Sisti shrugged off a Christmas time trial and said they were inevitable.
“They don’t stop arresting people over Christmas,” he said.
Vicinanzo said courthouse lore says the juries were being lenient because of the festive time of year and wanted to do their duty and do some Christmas shopping.
But he doesn’t buy it.
More than a decade ago, he prosecuted a months-long extortion case. The jury returned 146 guilty verdicts on 147 charges two days before Christmas, he said.
“Obviously,” he said, “they weren’t too concerned about Christmas shopping.”