Once again, the man behind the notorious Silk Road is back in the news. Ross Ulbricht, founder and lead administrator of the infamous darknet market, just started a new chapter in his seemingly endless back-and-forth battle with the courts in an effort to appeal his life sentence.
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For the past five years, Ulbricht’s legal team has worked continuously to pursue several options to sway the court. But viable options appear to be diminishing—particularly after the outcome of his latest court petition.
Last week, his efforts to secure a case rehearing were quickly thwarted when New York Southern District Court Judge Katherine B. Forrest denied Ross Ulbricht’s petition.
Ulbricht first received his sentence back in 2015 with the judge ruling for life imprisonment without any possibility of parole.
The sentence was for the charges of establishing and operating Silk Road, then a highly famous darknet marketplace that was ultimately shut down in 2013 after Ulbricht’s arrest.
Ever since, his defense team has headed a series of legal battles attempting to fight his conviction for various charges, including conspiracy to traffic drugs and money laundering.
The Latest Setback in the Silk Road Case
Unlike before, the delivery of the judgment was more laconic, with the judge blatantly stating that the said motion was denied.
This conciseness of the judgment delivery is perhaps a reflection of the mere fact that the judge had earlier made an initial ruling with regards to the arguments set forth by the defendant.
The same judge had denied an earlier motion presented to her by the defendant subsequently extending the time for an appeal motion.
In her delivery, Judge Forrest went to outline that the motion is neither a door for anyone to re-litigate what is already litigated, nor a chance to carry out an effort to come up with new evidence in the Silk Road case.
Back then, the Judge took notice that at the time, the court did take into consideration that Ulbricht’s counsel was not part of the trial.
Even so, the transcripts indicate that the evidence to which he is now referring to (claims that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was closely following his online movements) was however well known and used in the trial.
In her statement, she said that this was not any new and as such, there was no substantive cause shown that would result in a delay in the deadline.
Surveillance During Silk Road Investigation
According to Ulbricht, the court has not only overlooked but has also misapplied and misapprehended pertinent law and certain facts.
In his defense, he outlines that the court is misguided in its perception of the evidence brought forth by the defendant since it is, as a matter of fact, fresh evidence which was not earlier disclosed or known to the court at the trial period.
In reference to his counsel, Ulbricht indicates that what was unknown to the court before the Silk Road trial was that the authorities were making use of unauthorized surveillance tools in their efforts to keep track of both his physical movements together with his location while he was in his residence.
What’s more, the defendant’s counsel also went ahead to claim that the U.S. government was in possession of both additional material and internet activity monitoring data collected by the FBI during the Silk Road investigation, which are both substantial evidence crucial for the defense’s preparation.
This, they said, is because the government heavily relied on this material when they applied for the residence and laptop search warrants, as is required by U.S. legal codes which govern criminal investigations by law enforcement.
This material was crucial in pinning Ulbricht as the operator of the Silk Road darknet market.
The defense’s earlier request for an extension of time was so as to not only acquire but also scrutinize this data.
This is among the several applications Ross Ulbricht has filed.
In May 2017, he had also filed for an appeal for his sentence of life imprisonment and, just like Judge Forrest did this year, the panel of judges in the Northeastern Appeals Court also denied his request.
The reasons for the rejection of the appeals seem to center around the fact that the defendant’s counsel always files for an appeal under the same grounds.