TL;DR: Bitcoin pioneer Cody Wilson agreed to a tentative deal with prosecutors, accepting a lesser charge in exchange for no prison time and a chance to eventually have the court not enter a finding of guilt, meaning he won’t be officially convicted of the charge stemming from a highly publicized sex case.
Bitcoin Pioneer Cody Wilson Reaches Tentative Deal
Wilson is best known as a young, self-described crypto-anarchist who shocked the world during the summer of 2012 with his radical notion of printing a 3D firearm, the Liberator. It catapulted him to international infamy as Wilson, then a law school student in Austin, Texas, had all the makings of a digital age revolutionary.
He was articulate and well-versed in what amounted to a kind of philosophical theatre. The 3D printed gun idea was something of a lark at first, a joke between friends who wanted to test progressive tolerance and populism. What could be more radical than every man and/or woman potentially being a gun manufacturer? Release the files online, for free, and two issues immediately arise, freedom of speech and the right to bear arms.
Around this time, Wilson also synched online with early Bitcoiners like Amir Taaki, who, though based a continent away in the United Kingdom, wished to fuse all those ideas together. Online speech issues inevitably spilled over into permissionless, decentralized, peer-to-peer digital cash. Taaki and Wilson were kindred spirits on at least that level, and both didn’t mind poking institutional bears. They would become frequent cryptocurrency conference speakers, and also became the subjects of books and documentaries on the early history of Bitcoin.
Stymied at Every Turn
Wilson’s 3D firearm printing work, however, was stymied at every turn. Vendors, regulators, crowdfunding sources all de-platformed his company, Defense Distributed. Even the industrial printing machine was repossessed. That meant cryptocurrency was taking on an ever-larger role in funding Wilson’s vision. At one point, he and Taaki began the project Dark Wallet, a very early iteration of privacy-related bitcoin transactions.
Wilson’s primary focus continued to be 3D printed firearms and promoting their inevitability and legality (or trans-legality, beyond legal). He was still very much accepted in some cryptocurrency circles, but his pet cause was leading to an enormous legal battle with the United States government. He was eventually ordered by the US State Department to take his files offline, and he complied. But after negotiations with the Obama administration broke down, Wilson filed suit, claiming both his First Amendment and Second Amendment rights were being violated.
He and Defense Distributed were losing in the lower courts, but Wilson continued to appeal. The theory goes, the Trump administration feared Wilson would ultimately win at the higher court levels, setting a dangerous precedent, and thus cut a deal with Defense Distributed in the summer of 2018, allowing 3D firearm printing files to be published online. Nearly as soon as the settlement was announced, various states mounted individual injunctions, forbidding files from being downloaded in their jurisdictions. Instead of fighting one giant federal dragon, Wilson now faced more than half a dozen challenges at the same time around the US.
Deferred Adjudication Probation
By early Fall of 2018, Wilson announced 3D firearm printing files would no longer be free on the Defense Distributed site nor downloadable online, but would instead be priced by pay-what-you-can donations and mailed on thumb drives — defeating nearly all objections coming from the newly filed state lawsuits. Bitcoiners concerned about speech issues online rallied around Wilson, and began raising money for his on-going legal battles to that end.
At nearly this exact juncture in Wilson’s 3D firearm printing state court battles, he was charged and eventually indicted for having sex with a female under the age of Texas’ legal consent. Those already predisposed to dislike Wilson due to his famous advocacy were only too happy to have his reputation sullied, and that included some in the Bitcoin community as well. They didn’t want cryptocurrency associated with guns and black-market activities, and Wilson’s public shaming seemed to prove their point. Wilson quickly resigned his post at Defense Distributed, and the company has continued its court battles.
Local media describe today’s potential resolution of Wilson’s case as “a tentative plea agreement,” whereby he pled “guilty to a reduced charge of injury to a child in exchange for a recommended sentence that will keep him out of prison.” Instead, he will serve “deferred adjudication probation,” and if he “abides by the conditions of the probation, the court will not enter a finding of guilt and Wilson will not be convicted of the charge.”
DISCLOSURE: The author holds cryptocurrency as part of his financial portfolio, including BCH.
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