Re-Trial for Ross Ulbricht Not Looking Good

Silkroad founder, Ross Ulbricht, has been in prison since May 2015 after he was given a double life sentence without the possibility of parole. Ulbricht was charged on many counts, such as money laundering, conspiracy to sell drugs, and for creating and running Silkroad – a dark web site that enables its users to sell and buy drugs. While administrating the Silkroad website, Ulbricht used “Dread Pirate Roberts” as his pseudonym.

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images (2)A year on, Ulbricht, his mother Lyn, and his defense team are working on an appeal for a re-trial. Lyn Ulbricht filed an appeal for a re-trial of the case in what she and the defense team believes that the double life sentence given to her son was unjust. The 170-page argument that the defense team presented is Ulbricht’s final hope of escaping a double life sentence that he is now serving at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, NY. They filed the appeal on January 12, this year, and a reply was received from the government on June 17.
Their most important refutation concerns the argument over the role of the two corrupt agents who ended up using their roles in the Silkroad investigation to steal and extort money from Ross Ulbricht, and whose participation was kept undisclosed from the jury, and to some degree even from Silkroad founder defense team during his trial.

ross-ulbrichtUlbricht’s defense argues that the evidence revealing the corrupt federal agents had unfettered, high-level admin access to Silkroad; and the power to remove, add, and change material to the website; as well as pocket over a million US dollars, was covered up, and the jury was not allowed to know it.

Not only was the evidence tainted, but was kept unknown until after the trial was over. Silkroad founder defense team argues that the action is against the law and a direct violation of the “Brady Rule.” This is one of the major issues it has addressed in the appeal, but there are several weighty challenges to the Silkroad investigation and trial.

But, his re-trial doesn’t look as though it is going to be good as the prosecution team has now hit back with its own, equally large document refuting each and every one of those arguments.

In its 186-page document presented on the evening of June 17, the prosecution rehashed much of Ross’ 11-day trial in 2015 and defended repeated decisions by District Court Judge Katherine Forrest in its favor – a series of moves to deny defense witnesses, clamp down on defense evidence, and admit its evidence that led his lawyers to call for a mistrial not less than five instances.

Initial efforts by Ulbricht’s lawyers to take the case to court were earlier on thwarted by Judge Katherine Forrest in March. In her memo back then, Judge Forrest shot down a series of arguments presented by Ulbricht’s defense team including the corruption charges that were slapped on former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges and former DEA agent Carl Mark Force.

The two allegedly blackmailed Ulbricht and ended up extorting thousands of dollars from Silkroad. The defense team also pointed out that the period allocated to them for reviewing the evidence was not sufficient. The defense also cited unfair, denying Fifth Amendment rights for their client during the Silkroad hearing.

However, the argument by the defense that it was completely kept in the dark regarding Carl Mark Force’s misbehavior till the trial was concluded, and was not also told about the role that Shaun Bridges played doesn’t look good for Ross Ulbricht’s re-trial. In its latest hit-back, the prosecution argues that any disclosure it should have made as regards Silkroad investigation is irrelevant because Bridges’ and Force’s behavior had nothing to do with challenging Silkroad founder’s guilt.

They continue to argue that his appeal based on the corruption of the two federal agents doesn’t add up for the simple reason that, be that as it may, Ulbricht hasn’t explained how the information he pursued to admit or compel was exculpatory. Nowhere does Ross Ulbricht explain how Shaun Bridges and Carl Mark Force’s Silkroad crimes impeach the prosecution’s “overwhelming” evidence.

The 186-page prosecution document includes a laundry list of very compelling evidence against the Silkroad founder that it argues has no any relation to the two corrupt federal agents. That critical proof includes records of transactions on a bitcoin public ledger referred to as the “blockchain” that traces $18 million bitcoins sent from the Silkroad servers to his laptop, a journal and logbook found on that laptop, and FBI agents catching Ross Ulbricht red-handed in a library in San Francisco, logged into Silkroad as its administrator, even gaining access to a so-called “mastermind” page. Ulbricht’s defense team has so far declined to comment on the rebuttal by the prosecution.

And even though Ulbricht’s defense lawyers have argued that Force or Bridge used their illegal access to Silkroad to tamper somehow with its account or even plant evidence on the laptop, the prosecution has responded by stating that the Silkroad staff account that was hijacked from an informant by Shaun Bridges did not actually have the “root” access crucial for that sort of tampering.

It also goes on to argue that the defense knew about the crimes that Force committed on Silkroad to the extent that if it had suspected some evidence-planting on Ross Ulbricht’s laptop, it ought to have tried to demonstrate foul play during the trial.

In fact, Ross Ulbricht’s defense lawyers did make arguments that evidence-planting could have been possible on his laptop through a BitTorrent connection, but the prosecution appeared to proof that bogus to the jury. Prosecutor Serrin Turner has stated that there was nothing that was planted on Ulbricht’s laptop to affect the Silkroad case.

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