Kleiman v Wright: Ira Kleiman set to testify Wednesday as defense cranks up the pressure
We’re two full days into the Kleiman v Wright trial, and the proceedings are moving at a brisk pace. The plaintiffs have already completed examination of two of their significant witnesses, and with lawyers for Dr. Wright getting a good shot at both of them, the shape and tone of the trial are coming into focus.
So brisk is the pace, in fact, that Ira Kleiman is set to take the stand on Wednesday. Ira’s testimony is the key pillar in the case of Dr. Wright, because nearly everything Ira knows about Bitcoin and Dave’s potential involvement in it is supposed to have come from interactions he has had with Dr. Wright and other third parties.
Hearing from Ira can’t come soon enough, because the witnesses produced so far have been frustratingly limited windows into the events at the heart of the suit at best and irrelevant at worst.
For example, the first of Ira Kleiman’s called witnesses was put through the ringer by attorneys for Dr. Wright on cross-examination on Tuesday. Andreas Antonopoulos, who is being presented by the plaintiffs as their Bitcoin expert, testified about various technical Bitcoin concepts as well as the price of Bitcoin at various points. Naturally, Antonopoulos is choosing digital assets’ recent all-time-highs as the starting point for his valuation of the trove of Bitcoin that Dr. Wright allegedly stole.
One might have guessed that the defense was going to sink their teeth into Antonopoulos when given the chance. For one, they had already tried (unsuccessfully) to have this testimony excluded from trial. But more than that, while the expert was giving testimony about Bitcoin, Dr. Wright could be seen whispering animatedly to his counsel, and anyone who has seen Dr. Wright balk at an attempt to describe his invention will be able to imagine the sort of things being said. And sure enough, when the defense got their chance at Antonopoulos, they came hard.
Rivero called out Antonopoulos’ lack of experience as an expert witness despite being paid upwards of $700 an hour for his time (“This is the first time in your life you have testified in U.S. federal court?!”), his suitability to be testifying as a Bitcoin expert (“Are you even in the top 1000 experts here, or are you just a well-paid public speaker?”) and even got the expert to admit his prior relationship with the plaintiffs, including a written reference that the expert had provided for Kyle Roche, attorney for Ira Kleiman. The message from the defense was clear: this isn’t an expert on anything, let alone Bitcoin and certainly not the facts at issue in the present trial.
Unlike Antonopoulos, however, the second witness of the day was brought in for his relationship to Dave as opposed to any expertise. Patrick Paige is an important witness for the plaintiffs: he was a close associate and actual business partner of Dave Kleiman and according to the plaintiffs, was told by Dr. Wright that he and Dave were working on Bitcoin together. But the most revealing portions of Paige’s testimony came during the defense’s cross examination:
Q: Was Dave your friend?
Q: Did you talk about everything?
Q: Did he tell you about Bitcoin?
Q: Dave was you partner – did you have an operating agreement?
Q: Did this include percentage of ownership, profit, intellectual property, et cetera?
Q: Your best friend made you sign an operating agreement?
The implications are obvious: Ira is alleging that Dr. Wright, one of Dave Kleiman’s best friends, entered into a partnership with Dave to mine Bitcoin—but there exists no written evidence that this partnership ever existed. According to Paige, Dave was very much a written and signed agreement kind of businessman. Are we to believe that Dave abandoned this attitude especially for his multi-billion-dollar, world-changing partnership?
Ira Kleiman didn’t show up to court for the trial’s second day. Rivero brought attention to this directly when cross-examining Antonopoulos, and even put it to Patrick Paige directly: Paige said he didn’t know where Ira was. It is notable; Ira Kleiman is supposed to think he’s on a crusade to get his late brother’s stolen fortune back, and he’s waited more than four years for the chance to put his case forward in court. Why the sudden reticence?
Ira will be in court on Wednesday, and barring anything unforeseen, he’ll take the stand. By Ira’s own admission, virtually everything he knows about Dave’s alleged involvement in Bitcoin comes from third parties—be they Dr. Wright or people like Patrick Paige—and documents produced years after Dave’s death. But it’s Ira that sits at the nexus between all of these disparate narrative threads: it’ll be a chance for him to demonstrate to the jury why he has good reason for believing that Dr. Wright is guilty of robbing his best friend.
By the same token, it’ll be an opportunity for the defense to spotlight the gaps in Ira’s narrative. If he gets the same treatment as Mr. Antonopoulos, he could be in for a bad time.
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 Special Report from the Kleiman v Wright trial here:
Watch our Day 2 Special Report from the Kleiman v Wright trial here:
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