A lawyer for Taylor Samson’s family is working to make sure a laptop potentially containing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoin doesn’t make it back into William Sandeson’s possession.
As the Halifax Examiner reported in December, Linda Boutilier and Connor Samson are suing Sandeson for wrongful death:
Boutilier and Samson are asking the court to rule that Sandeson murdered Samson.
“The Plaintiffs claim that the Defendant murdered their son and brother and ask this Honourable Court to find him liable for the wrongful death of Taylor Samson,” Goodwin wrote.
Boutilier and Samson are seeking general and special damages; “loss of housekeeping services;” “loss of guidance, care, and companionship;” “exemplary and punitive damages;” interest and costs; and “such further relief as is found mete and just.”
Sandeson has not filed a defence in the case.
After the Examiner published that story, on Dec. 12, Justice D. Timothy Gabriel imposed a publication ban on the case pending the conclusion of Sandeson’s criminal trial.
The jury in that case convicted Sandeson of second-degree murder on Saturday. Sentencing is scheduled for April 20 and 21, according to CBC.
On Thursday in Amherst Supreme Court, Justice Jeffrey Hunt agreed that the interim publication ban is no longer in effect.
The case is back in court in May. Boutilier and Samson’s lawyer, James Goodwin, will argue for a freeze on the return of Sandeson’s laptop.
What’s on the laptop?
Halifax Regional Police and the Crown have had the laptop since Sandeson’s arrest in August 2015. Sandeson applied to the court to have it returned to him in July.
Crown attorneys Carla Ball and Kimberley McOnie’s were “reluctant to return the laptop until this court matter is ultimately concluded,” according to their submission. They had provided Sandeson with a copy of the hardrive.
“The hard drive of Mr. Sandeson’s laptop contains a plethora of information, which includes text messages, internet searches, and information on websites that were accessed up to and including August 15, 2015,” the Crowns wrote.
“This could be information that the Crown may want to lead or, if Mr. Sandeson elects to testify, that could be used in cross-examination.”
Justice James Chipman outlined why Sandeson wanted the laptop back in his decision, dated Nov. 10, 2022:
During his direct examination Mr. Sandeson said that he had cryptocurrency accessible through his laptop. He said that this was Bitcoin, which he purchased “six to eight months before my arrest.” He estimated the value to be $8,000 – $10,000 and said that it will have appreciated over the nearly seven and a half year period of time since his arrest. He recalled that he purchased $3,000 in Bitcoin on August 15, 2015. Mr. Sandeson testified that he needs physical possession of the laptop in order to access the funds, adding “if the laptop is inoperable, the money is lost forever.” Mr. Sandeson testified that he wants retrieval of his Bitcoin so that he can use the funds to assist in paying for his defence lawyer. Mr. Sandeson noted that he has been in prison for over seven years with no income. He added that it is “a large expense to fund a criminal defence.”
With respect to Mr. Sandeson’s statement that he had in the order of $3,000 in Bitcoin “on his computer”, his father, Michael Sandeson, emailed the Court on October 14, 2022, attaching a copy of a Bitcoin transaction in the amount of $3,000 in the name of William Sandeson created on August 15, 2015.
Bitcoin value up 9,000% since 2015
Bitcoin closed at US$261.55 on Aug. 15, 2015. On Thursday, it opened at US$24,197.62.
Assuming the lower end of Sandeson’s estimate of $8,000 in Canadian value in August 2015, that Bitcoin would now be worth US$565,329.85, or about $760,000 Canadian.
But Sandeson has been unable to access that value without the laptop.
Chipman accepted “Sandeson’s evidence that the external hard drive did not provide access to the Bitcoin.”
“I also accept that by obtaining the original Dell laptop that Mr. Sandeson may be able to access the cryptocurrency,” Chipman wrote.
“At the same time, I am mindful of the Crown’s argument that less than two months before the start of Mr. Sandeson’s second trial that it would be inappropriate to return the computer.”
Chipman ruled for the Crown, deciding not to order the laptop returned to Sandeson.
Gabriel’s Dec. 12 order addressed the laptop as well, ordering the police and Crown not to provide Sandeson with the laptop “or with any data from said laptop that may lead William Sandeson to control or access cryptocurrency contained on the Dell Laptop.”
During Thursday’s hearing, Goodwin said he intends to bring a motion for an interlocutory injunction to further freeze the transfer of the laptop to Sandeson.
Hunt mused that the parties may want to have the Bitcoin assets liquidated and frozen, but he wasn’t sure whether a court would order Sandeson to do so. In the meantime, Gabriel’s order stands.
The case is back in court May 5 for a status hearing, and then on May 25 for the injunction.