Will Someone Please Explain Bitcoin to Judge Judy?

"He was trying to deal with something called Bitcoin, which I don't understand."

Judge Judy regularly figures out exactly what happened, prophetically deciphering the mystery behind even the most cryptic of disputes, usually TKO-ing at least one of the litigants with a few forceful blows in the ring that is her court.

But this time, Judy concedes that there is something she does not know about: Bitcoin.

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Cryptocurrency made an unexpected entrance into the famed daytime show on Friday. Judge Judy is a reality court show featuring Judge Judith Sheindlin, who adjudicates small claims disputes in no small way. Her entertaining, tough and witty approach with litigants has helped the show lead ratings for courtroom programming.

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In one of the cases aired on Friday, Dan Haahr, the plaintiff, charged that the defendant, Marlon Koland, sold him a truck from a fake e-Bay account and never delivered after payment was made. In summarizing Koland’s defense argument as the case started, Sheindlin commented:

“He was trying to deal with something called Bitcoin, which I don’t understand- which you’ve tried explaining it to me from today to tomorrow, I couldn’t understand it.”

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Koland claims that he himself is a victim of what he referred to as a man-in-the-middle attack (not to be confused with a cybersecurity threat), and that he wasn’t even the seller. Instead, the true fraudster listed Koland’s bank account as the destination for the truck’s buyer to send payment, ostensibly without Koland’s knowledge. At the same time, the fraudster arranged to buy bitcoins from Koland, who sends them after observing the payment arrive, ostensibly for the bitcoins (but in fact from the truck buyer).

The fraudster emerges with a net gain of bitcoins, which are unlikely to ever be traced back to their new owner or confiscated, without delivering a truck. The truck buyer (Haahr) goes after the bitcoin seller (Koland), whose fiat funds are subject to court-ordered transfer.

Asked what he does for a living, Koland responds, in almost perfectly scripted fashion:

“I make a living day trading Bitcoin, which is a decentralized digital currency. The only thing I can compare it to is internet cash.”

Shaindlin interrogates Koland if he has ever been arrested, to which he confesses that he has: once for the unlawful distribution of marijuana, and another time for driving while intoxicated.

Later, in a miscommunicated exchange between Sheindlin and Koland, the latter asserts that he has an “outstanding reputation for trading bitcoins.”

After a pep talk about online scams and drugs, Sheindlin moves in for the kill. She takes Koland to task for not producing evidence that his account, into which he claims had $33,000 deposited within a month, was closed at his request. She abruptly awards $2,000 in favor of the plaintiff, the amount he paid for the truck. She gets up as Koland attempts to argue his cause and shouts him down, declaring the case over with.

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