Bitcoin_subpoena

Tech journalist subpoenaed in ongoing Bitcoin lawsuit

August 27, 2019

Brendan Sullivan, a journalist at Modern Consensus, received a subpoena for all documents and communications between him and Craig Wright, an Australian computer scientist and businessman who has claimed to be the creator of Bitcoin.

Wright is currently the defendant in a lawsuit brought against him by the Estate of David Kleiman, Wright’s late partner. David’s brother, Ira Kleiman, is the executor of the estate and claims Wright attempted to steal his brother’s Bitcoin holdings, now worth approximately $10 billion.

Wright agreed to an interview with Sullivan, giving him a scoop on the case before the courts made an announcement of the judge's order. The next day, on Aug. 27, 2019, someone was waiting outside of Sullivan’s home to serve him the subpoena, according to his article outlining the events.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker reviewed the subpoena, which Sullivan posted with his article. It orders him to hand over any documents and communications between him and Wright since 2006 (before Bitcoin was invented), listing out more than 110 items that count as “documents,” including their encrypted WhatsApp and Signal messages, every social media conversation, interview notes and transcripts, drafts of his article and any relevant documents protected by computer encryption.

“I’m a journalist and the court has no right to any of my files, notes, thoughts or personal belongings. They are not getting anything from me,” Sullivan wrote.

Sullivan told the Tracker that he refused to attend the deposition hearing scheduled for Sept. 10. His lawyer filed a motion to quash on Sept. 9, arguing that the breadth of documents requested suggests that the subpoena is a fishing expedition with no clear idea how, if at all, the documents are relevant to the case.

The filing also included an affidavit from Sullivan authenticating his article and stating that it truly and accurately reflects his interview with Wright. In addition to asking that the subpoena be quashed, they are asking for Kleiman to cover Sullivan’s legal fees.

“I can fight this for years if I need to,” Sullivan told the Tracker. “What I really want is just to have my press freedom back.”

On Sept. 20, a judge granted Kleiman’s attorney a 21-day extension to respond to the motion to quash the subpoena against Sullivan. In a joint filling from Wright and Kleiman they state, “The parties have been engaged in extensive settlement negotiations and have reached a non-binding agreement in principle to settle this matter.”

If a settlement is reached, Sullivan told the Tracker, it is likely that the subpoena against him would be dropped.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]

Related Incidents

Multimedia journalist subpoenaed by grand jury

December 9, 2020
Tina MacIntyre-Yee, a multimedia journalist at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York, was called to testify before a grand jury on Dec. 16, 2020, according to an article from her employer, which MacIntyre-Yee verified to the Committee to Protect Journalists.The journalist said that she complied with the subpoena, though did not offer compromising material about her sources.MacIntyre-Yee has reported on recent civil unrest in Rochester that followed both the death of Goerge Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis …

NYPD subpoenas journalist’s phone records in leak investigation

July 14, 2020
The New York City Police Department subpoenaed a journalist’s cellphone records as part of a leak investigation, according to the reporter, who asked that their name not be disclosed, citing fear of harming relationships with sources, and a report by the New York Daily News.On July 14, 2020, the New York-based freelancer who works for the Daily Mail received a letter stating that their phone records had been subpoenaed and used to question a police officer about his alleged contact …

Court denies motion to quash subpoena against journalist working on book about 1993 NY murder

January 29, 2020
Journalist Samantha Christmann was subpoenaed on Jan. 29, 2020, to testify about her interviews with the defendant in an ongoing murder trial in Lockport, New York. Christmann’s motion to quash the subpoena was dismissed by the Niagara County Court on Jan. 21, 2021, according to her lawyer. The trial involves the 1993 murder of Mandy Steingasser, who was strangled to death when she was 17. In 2018, police charged Joseph H. Belstadt with the murder after newly tested DNA evidence …
More related incidents