US District Judge Katherine Forrest has declined to suppress the evidence the government is using against Ross William Ulbricht, the alleged Silkroad mastermind. This paves way for a federal trial that is set for 3rd November, 2014 in connection to the Silkroad website that once sold hacking tools and illicit drugs.
The judge’s decision sidestepped the contentious issue of whether the federal prosecutors violated Ross Ulbricht’s constitutional rights of unlawful search and seizure. According to Ross Ulbricht’s defense team, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) or even the NSA (National Security Agency) in some way managed to unlawfully gain access to the Silkroad severs in Iceland, this led to several search warrants of social networking and e-mail accounts the U.S government said belong to Ross Ulbricht.
The New York judge stated that it does not matter whether the U.S government unlawfully gained access to the Silkroad severs. This is because she ruled that Ross Ulbricht does not have a right to challenge the seizure of the Silkroad servers that eventually led to his arrest last year.
She ruled that whatever methods the government used to gain access to the evidence against Ross Ulbricht are beyond the purview of the court.
She said that as a result of Ross Ulbricht denying any connection to the Silkroad servers and having not demonstrated any association to them, he does not have a right to challenge the methods used by the government to seize the Silkroad servers. She added that Ulbricht would have been able to challenge the search if he had claimed to have a connection to the Silkroad servers. The government said that they did not need a warrant because the Silkroad servers were overseas.
The judge wrote that the requirement to establish a personal privacy interest may appear to place Ross Ulbricht in a catch-22: if the U.S government must substantiate any connection between him and Silkroad, asking him to admit such a connection to establish his standing, the seizures and searches in question could be deemed unfair. But as Ross Ulbricht surely knows, this isn’t the first court, nor is he the first defendant, to bring up such an issue.
She did, however, note that the sworn statement of a defendant in support of a motion to suppress PDF evidence generally cannot be used against him at trial. She said that this doesn’t insulate Ross Ulbricht from all risk. If he decided to take the witness stand to defend himself, his statement may nevertheless be used to impeach him.
Ross William Ulbricht is charged with 7 separate crimes that are related to the design, creation, administration, and operations of Silkroad. He is accused of facilitating anonymous transactions of hacking tools, narcotics and fake identification documents.