Cryptocurrency collapse, anti-government rhetoric set stage for Freeman trial – Yahoo! Voices

Cryptocurrency collapse, anti-government rhetoric set stage for Freeman trial – Yahoo! Voices

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December 8, 2022 by Coinvasity
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Dec. 6—Bitcoin trader, libertarian activist and radio personality Ian Freeman faces trial Tuesday with the country in a sour mood over cryptocurrency.In March 2021, when federal agents raided his Keene home and brought charges of money laundering, wire fraud and tax evasion against the liberty-minded advocate, bitcoin and other cryptocurrency were hot investments.Now cryptocurrency has
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Dec. 6—Bitcoin trader, libertarian activist and radio personality Ian Freeman faces trial Tuesday with the country in a sour mood over cryptocurrency.
In March 2021, when federal agents raided his Keene home and brought charges of money laundering, wire fraud and tax evasion against the liberty-minded advocate, bitcoin and other cryptocurrency were hot investments.
Now cryptocurrency has plummeted in value, the FTX crypto-exchange has collapsed, and congressional hearings and court trials have showed an ugly side of right-wing groups that decide to take the law into their own hands, said David Vicinanzo, a Manchester lawyer and former federal prosecutor.
"It's kind of like the blush is off the (cryptocurrency) rose," Vicinanzo said. "At least the possibility of fraud in its use is now front and center."
Jury selection in U.S. District Court in Concord is expected to start at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. If it goes smoothly, lawyers for the prosecution and defense could give opening statements within hours.
Freeman faces charges of money laundering, tax evasion and operation of an unlicensed money-transmitting business.
The trial starts on a good note for Freeman. In recent days, prosecutors dropped 17 of the 25 charges he was facing. Most of them dealt with bank fraud and wire fraud.
"It's probably because of what we've been telling them all along," said Mark Sisti, Freeman's defense attorney.
Sisti pointed to a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal in the "Buffalo Billions" conviction. The court heard that case late last month.
It involved a businessman who withheld information in bids for a government contract and was convicted of wire fraud.
Freeman is accused of deceiving Keene-area banks where he established accounts. But like the Buffalo Billions case, no one was harmed, Sisti said.
"The banks actually made money off Ian," Sisti said.
Sisti discounted any notion that Freeman will be harmed by the national mood about cryptocurrency. The judge will instruct the jury about how to deal with such issues, he said.
And while Freeman espouses views that are critical of government, he does not advocate for violence and has never been charged with anything in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The trial is expected to draw a crowd.
A website thecryptosix.com has been created with a focus on the charges against Freeman and five co-defendants who have either agreed to plea bargains or had their charges dropped.
The website includes links for donations to fund their defense. And it promises that trial updates will be posted to three social-media sites. The website said a protest is scheduled for Monday evening Dec. 12 outside the courthouse.
Judge Joseph Laplante's courtroom has four rows of benches and is one of the largest courtrooms in the courthouse.
Officials have set up an overflow room for a video feed and for any spectators who refuse to wear a mask in the courtroom.
The trial, which could last as long as three weeks and starts at the middle of the Christmas season. Jury selection will likely be slowed by people who say they can't serve and cite travel plans or other commitments.
Sisti shrugged about a Christmas time trial and said they're inevitable.
"They don't stop arresting people over Christmas," he said.
Vicinanzo said courthouse lore says that juries are lenient because of the festive time of the year, and they want to finish their duty and go Christmas shopping.
But he doesn't buy it.
More than a decade ago, he prosecuted a month-long racketeering case. The jury issued 146 guilty verdicts on 147 charges two days before Christmas, he said.
"Obviously," he said, "they weren't too concerned about Christmas shopping."
mhayward@unionleader.com
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