The first week of the Kleiman v Wright trial is here, the jurors are locked in, and now plaintiff Ira Kleiman and his attorneys are up to bat first. What can be expected out of the opening rounds of the biggest trial in digital asset history?
The meat of the trial began Monday, when attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant made their opening statements. It is here that the parties lay out their position for the jury: the lawyers will set out their narrative and explain to the jury what evidence they are likely to see and what testimony they are likely to hear over the course of the trial.
After both parties make their opening statements, the trial then moves into the evidentiary phase. This will be the biggest portion of the trial and will see both sides present their evidence to the jury, including the testimony of expert and non-expert witnesses.
The plaintiffs will move first here, too and will present their evidence all at once. The plaintiff’s case is expected to last until November 10, at which point a four-day holiday for Veteran’s Day in the U.S. provides a natural breakpoint before the defense begins their own. This means that this week and next will be all about the plaintiff’s case: their experts, their exhibits, their narrative. It will be a chance to see exactly what it is that has made Ira Kleiman think that his brother was a partner in the Satoshi Nakamoto endeavor. This is particularly important here, because most of the evidence we have seen relating to Dr. Wright’s business affairs in this period haven’t come from Ira (for instance, the most concrete evidence we’ve seen regarding W&K, the entity through which Ira is alleging the partnership was at least in part conducted, came from a petition filed in 2020 by one of the surviving members of W&K, and it demonstrated that neither Kleiman brother had any controlling interest in the company at the time of Dave’s death).
Perhaps the most revealing moments of the trial will come from witness testimony. Ira’s side is calling a series of witnesses throughout this week and next, all of whom they will intend to use to either bolster their own narrative or discredit the defendant. Counsel for Ira will examine their witnesses first; after that, the defense will get the chance to cross-examine them.
Heading into the trial, there are 35 total witnesses between the parties, though new witnesses can be introduced throughout trial with 24 hours’ notice. There are three witnesses scheduled to be called upon this week:
November 2: Andreas Antonopoulos
Andreas Antonopoulos is a British-Greek tech author and BTC advocate. He has authored a number of books about Bitcoin and digital currencies generally. According to the plaintiffs, he’s the author of “the world’s most cited book on Bitcoin.” We can tell from Antonopoulos’ deposition, expert report and the motions filed by both parties relating to his testimony that the plaintiffs intend to use him to provide technical descriptions of Bitcoin and related concepts for the jury, price assessments on the value of Bitcoin at various points (to establish damages).
Antonopoulos’ testimony was the subject of an earlier legal skirmish where Dr. Wright moved to have it disallowed on the grounds that, among other things, Antonopoulos has a well-established bias against him. It certainly looked that way: Antonopoulos’ Twitter contains multiple personal attacks on Dr. Wright, including referring to him as a con artist and a fraud in the past, and took the time to call Dr. Wright a fraud on his podcast. Nonetheless, the Court would not disallow him as an expert, and he’s set to be the first one on the stand.
November 4 (scheduled): Patrick Paige
Patrick Paige was one of Dave Kleiman’s business partners in a computer forensics business they ran together. The two had met while they were police officers: according to Paige’s deposition, he was the person who trained Dave. Paige plays a surprisingly central role in at least some of the events relevant to the lawsuit.
For one, it was Paige that Ira gave a number of Dave’s hard drives
Secondly, Paige was still close to Dave at the time of his death; in a lawsuit which proposes that Dave played a role in the creation of Bitcoin and subsequent mining, Paige may be able to shed light on whether Dave was in any state to do so. Paige has already testified that Dave never mentioned anything to him about Bitcoin or that Dr. Wright was his business partner—in fact, Paige testified that Dave never mentioned Dr. Wright. Contrary to the image of Dave put forward by the plaintiffs as one half of the richest partnership on the planet, Paige testified that he knew that Dave was going through financial struggles. We know from both Paige’s deposition (and from that of another of Dave’s associates) that Paige was helping Dave financially, such as by paying his phone bills.
However, another interesting wrinkle in Paige’s presence on the docket is that Ira at one point thought Paige was the one in possession of an enormous (and recoverable) amount of Dave’s Bitcoin, to the point where Ira filed suit against him and another of Dave’s associates—a suit not unlike the one before Dr. Wright. It appears that Ira eventually satisfied himself that he was barking up the wrong tree with Paige, to the evident misfortune of Dr. Wright.
These are all valuable details in determining whether it’s likely that Dave thought he was entitled to billions of dollars’ worth of Bitcoin at the time of his death, as the lawsuit alleges, and is especially relevant to whether Dr. Wright defrauded Dave and his estate out of the Satoshi fortune.
November 5 (scheduled): Ira Kleiman
The week will close with a vital piece of testimony: the instigator of the lawsuit himself and brother of the late Dave Kleiman: Ira Kleiman. Ira is not the direct plaintiff, despite being the instigator of the suit: he’s bringing the action in his capacity as representative of the Dave Kleiman estate and lists W&K as a co-plaintiff (W&K is the company which was supposedly started by Dave and Dr. Wright to effect their partnership). There is pending litigation in Palm Beach Probate Court on whether Ira was even allowed to bring the suit against Dr. Craig Wright in the first place. The probate litigation will be resolved after the Kleiman v Wright case has concluded.
This is going to be a substantial piece of testimony, and will likely be revealing. One thing which Ira Kleiman has struggled with in putting together his case against Dr. Wright is being able to produce evidence relating to the partnership which he is alleging existed between his brother and Dr. Wright. Not only was Ira not present in Dave’s life during the time he was allegedly in partnership with Dr. Wright, in his deposition Ira said that he wasn’t even aware of digital currency until after the death of his brother, and that Dave himself had said nothing of Dr. Wright to him before his death.
In fact, the only instance where he is claiming to have had any indication that his brother had anything to do with Bitcoin while still alive was Thanksgiving dinner in 2009: Ira insists that he can remember Dave telling him that he was working on digital money before he drew the symbol for Bitcoin on the back of a business card. One interesting fact is that the Bitcoin logo that Ira described in his deposition that his brother drew out for him happened to be a newer version of the logo which was created well after the alleged Thanksgiving took place. Other than that, Ira has said that virtually all of the evidence he relied on to come to the conclusion that Dr. Wright defrauded his late brother comes either from interactions he’s had with Dr. Wright himself, or emails between Dr. Wright and others—and yet both Dr. Wright and Ira have at various times complained of forged communications on the docket.
It will also be interesting to hear explanation from Ira over his conduct in the run up to filing his suit against Dr. Wright. Of particular interest is what efforts (if any) he expended to verify that his brother might have invented Bitcoin, especially considering that Ira was in the unique position of having access to all of Dave’s hard drives, thumb drives, computers and documents. Ira has admitted to throwing away papers of Dave’s which he fears may have been relevant, and has admitted to both formatting his hard drives and using them for his own purposes for years after Dave’s death—even up to, including and after the period where he was filing a lawsuit against Dr. Wright over his brother’s lost fortune.
It’s been tough to get a grip on exactly what Ira knows and which evidence he intends to rely on to prove it—because, like anyone watching this case, Ira is trying to construct a narrative based on scattered evidence from a time and place at which he was not present. With the body of evidence submitted in this case being frustratingly sparse, hearing from Ira directly is going to be a key moment in the trial.
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 1 Livestream from the Kleiman v Wright trial here:
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