Kleiman V Wright

Craig Wright testimony brings Satoshi Nakamoto’s relationship with Dave Kleiman into focus

Emotions ran high on the stand today as the plaintiffs pressed ahead with their examination of Dr. Craig Wright on Day 7 of the Kleiman v Wright trial.

But while much of the day was spent on tangents—tours of various Dr. Wright’s companies based in Australia and the convoluted agreements and corporate structures they entail—Dr. Wright’s time on the stand is nonetheless shedding new light on his relationship with Dave Kleiman—and it’s vital to understanding the case as well as Bitcoin’s origin story. While some pieces of the picture of Dave and Dr. Wright’s friendship have been available for perusal for years on the docket in the Kleiman litigation, now trial is bringing them into sharp focus.

For example, on the stand, Dr. Wright described the relationship between himself and Dave Kleiman, including the role Dave played in his decision to embark upon the Bitcoin project—against the wishes of his own wife at the time.

“Dave Kleiman was important to me,” Dr. Wright told Vel Freedman under examination today, in tears.

“I failed my first marriage and wanted Dave remembered. Dave talked me into Bitcoin and it basically ended my marriage.”

It’s obvious that Dave is still an emotional topic for Dr. Wright, no doubt inflamed by the adversarial nature of the context. Dr. Wright, who had been remarkably composed as opposing counsel barraged him with questions on the stand for almost two days now, appeared to struggle when his best friend came up.

Clearly, of the many different things Dave was to Dr. Wright, he was a close friend first. But the question asked by the present litigation is: were they partners in inventing Bitcoin as Satoshi Nakamoto?

Plaintiffs have adduced reams of communications between Dr. Wright and others including Dave Kleiman which they say indirectly suggest that to be the case. But the more time Dr. Wright spends on the stand, the more it becomes clear that his friendship with Dave was so deep that it interacted with Wright’s professional ventures in multiple ways, and regularly. This is especially true over ventures that Dave had no direct role in—to the degree that extrapolating any kind of meaning from isolated emails or turns of phrase used by Dr. Wright to describe the relationship is likely to paint a woefully incomplete picture.

Sure, their work lives and collaborations played a significant role in how they related to one another. Many of the emails between the two that have been shown at trial concern papers they were working on together. One particularly notable one was a conference paper entitled Overwriting Hard Drive Data: The Great Wiping Controversy. Others involved proposals to government agencies that were never accepted. Even beyond papers the two contributed to directly, Dr. Wright would email Dave his own work to clean up for tone and language. If the two were working on a project together, they were typically emailing one another.

But even the “getting down to business” exchanges are filtered through the lens of an obviously tight friendship, albeit a geographically remote one. Feedback was given apparently earnestly, but not couched in the kind of professional platitudes one might expect of business associates.

“Just take care and try and not tell people what you think of them. As a start,” Dave counselled Dr. Wright in one Bitmessage. In response to Dr. Wright expressing concerns that Dave was using the Tor browser, he replied: “Craig, you sound like me ex-wife.”

Such was the friendship between the two that, as Dr. Wright said today on the stand, any representations he made about Dave’s role in Bitcoin to others (namely, Ira Kleiman after Dave’s death) have to be read in light of Dr. Wright’s desire to speak highly of his best friend with whom he had done a lot of valuable work even if Dave’s involvement in Bitcoin was minimal.

“I exaggerated because I wanted Dave to be remembered,” said Dr. Wright.

It explains why, at certain times and to certain people, Dr. Wright has said that Dave was his partner. But here’s the thing that is likely to confuse people reading the black and white quotes from Dr. Wright which are divorced from their contexts: Dr. Wright has been consistent in maintaining that Dave was both an integral part to Dr. Wright’s success and was no direct contributor to the invention of Bitcoin. In his 2020 deposition, Dr. Wright had this to say:

“I believe that Dave was essential for me because, without Dave, I would not have survived. I talked to Dave three, four times a week, so Dave was essential because I would not have kept my sanity without Dave. Dave was my best friend and without Dave there to talk to literally I would have just quit earlier.”

These are strong words that speak directly to the role Dave played in the creation of Bitcoin. That role is a significant one to be sure (friendship), at least by some metrics—but not a direct one (business partnership). But it does demonstrate that words or phrases pilfered from Dr. Wright’s private communications or old legal documents, as imprecise as language can be at describing interpersonal relationships, isn’t going to say anything about whether it’s actually true that the two were both halves of a Satoshi Nakamoto partnership.

The fact that there is no evidence showing either of the two men talked about actually collaborating on Bitcoin is just the cherry on top.

CoinGeek will feature Kurt Wuckert Jr. in daily recap coverage which will be livestreamed on a daily basis at 6:30 p.m. EST on our YouTube Channel.

Watch our Day 7 Special Report from the Kleiman v Wright trial here:

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Check out all of the CoinGeek special reports on the Kleiman v Wright YouTube playlist.

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