US Court

Kleiman v Wright: More rulings on evidence allowed at trial

The Court has ruled on the outstanding motions as to admissibility of evidence in next year’s Kleiman v Wright trial. Both sides had made submissions arguing that certain items of evidence and testimony be excluded from trial. The Court is typically reluctant to exclude evidence or testimony, only doing so when it is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds, and the burden is on the party making the motion to show that it is.

Wright’s motions

Wright sought to stop Ira Kleiman from presenting evidence regarding certain issues at trial. Specifically:

  1. Judicial statements about Wright’s credibility (Disallowed)

The judicial statements referred to above relate to prior criticism from Magistrate Judger Reinhart and by the Australian Tax Office as to Wright’s credibility. The Court agreed with Wright’s argument that the comments will deny him a fair trial and that due process would be denied, and that it is for the jury to assess the credibility of witness testimony.

  1. Evidence or testimony about the Australian Tax Office’s audits of non-party Australian companies (Allowed)

This request relates to the Australian Tax Office documents which have been submitted as evidence in the case. They are largely related to a separate tax audit of companies Wright was associated with in Australia and relate to various companies in Australia which are not party to the Kleiman litigation, but are associated with Wright. The Court disagreed with Wright’s arguments that the ATO materials are irrelevant to the litigation, so prejudicial that they should be barred or that to include them would amount to a litigation of collateral issues, or that the documents could not be authenticated.

Kleiman’s motions

Meanwhile, Ira sought to stop Wright from presenting certain evidence and arguments at trial:

  1. Ira Kleiman’s sibling relationship with his brother Dave (Disallowed)

Ira sought to prevent Wright from portraying the brothers as estranged, no doubt foreseeing questions arising as to Ira’s motivations in the litigation and steps he had taken in the run up to filing the lawsuit, including wiping hard drives which may have contained vital evidence either for or against Kleiman’s claims. The Court has ruled that this evidence is to be excluded (with one exception) on the basis that the quality of Ira and Dave’s relationship does not make either party’s claims more or less probable. The exception of the alleged conversation which Ira says took place between him and Dave on Thanksgiving, in which Dave told Ira that he was working on Bitcoin, which is allowed to be presented at trial.

  1. Evidence or testimony from Wright which contradict judicially admitted documents (Allowed)

Ira wanted the Court to prevent Wright from being able to contradict evidence which were allegedly drafted or signed by him, and that Wright has waived his ability to refute them by stating in his reply to the lawsuit that the documents “speak for themselves.” Wright’s side has always left open the door to the possibility that some documents bearing Wright’s name and signature are not authentic, a claim which Ira is trying to preclude entirely. The Court disagreed with Ira’s argument, and ruled that nothing Wright had said could be construed as waiving his ability to refute the documents.

  1. Testimony from Wright claiming that his computers were hacked or that his documents were forged (Allowed)

For similar reasons to Motion #4, Ira had asked the Court to stop Wright from being able to claim in front of a jury that any of the documents in the case were forged or that his computers had been hacked. The Court rejected this request on the basis that these claims, if made, are for the jury to evaluate and that Ira has already had the opportunity to probe the documents produced in discovery.

  1. Prevent Wright from using late-disclosed documents (Allowed)

This request related to almost 2,000 pages of documents which were allegedly produced after Wright’s depositions and after the cutoff for discovery. Ira wanted the Court to either stop Wright from being able to use any of those materials at trial, or require that Wright sit for another deposition so that the documents can be probed that way. The Court quickly dismissed this request on the basis that none of the documents complained of had been produced in an untimely fashion and were produced before the May 1, 2020 deadline. In fact, both parties were exchanging materials after the depositions and up until the deadline.

  1. Testimony from Wright that Dave had committed suicide (Disallowed)

This request speaks for itself. The Court granted Ira’s motion as to this point, accepting that while Dave’s ability to mine bitcoin and develop intellectual property up until his death are relevant to the litigation, the cause of death itself is not.

  1. Evidence or testimony related to Kleiman’s social habits and alleged drug use (Part allowed, part disallowed)

Again, this request speaks for itself. One can speculate that Ira expects Wright to produce evidence showing that Dave was in no condition to invent Bitcoin, one of the fundamental pillars of Ira’s case. The Court in part granted and in part denied the motion: evidence as to Dave’s habit of visiting strip clubs and alleged domestic violence episodes are not relevant, but evidence as to his dating life might be and are allowed at trial.

  1. Evidence or testimony related to Wright’s alleged childhood trauma (Disallowed)

Another motion which speaks for itself. This is part of a wider push by Ira to prevent Wright from justifying various actions he has taken before and during the litigation by reference to his autism or, in this case, his childhood. Wright had argued against this motion on the basis that his character has become a key issue in the case, and that he intends to put his behavior into context—including his disappearance as Satoshi Nakamoto after 2010. The Court granted Ira’s request, finding that details of Wright’s childhood trauma is irrelevant to the issues at issue in the case.

Next steps

From an outside perspective, with so many questions surrounding the Satoshi Nakamoto story still left unanswered, the more evidence that comes out in the trial, the better.

These were the last major rulings yet to be resolved following May’s flurry of filings. Wright’s side will be pleased that Justice Reinhart’s adverse comments will not be at risk of tainting the trial. While the scattershot attempt at hamstringing Wright’s ability to intelligibly defend himself at trial succeeded on some grounds, he will have been hoping that Wright would not have been able to question the authenticity of any of the thousands of pages that have been produced in the suit, some of which Ira is claiming corroborate his narrative.

Now that resolution has come, the parties are left to prepare for trial, which is now expected to take place in April 2021.

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