The Case, The Goal and Why this Matters
The Federal government has convicted Ross Ulbricht of seven felony counts based on the accusation that he created and operated the anonymous online marketplace Silk Road, under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR). The charges are: narcotics trafficking; computer hacking; money laundering; engaging in a criminal enterprise; and conspiracy to traffic in fraudulent IDs. The government cites no victims for any of these alleged crimes or their other allegations.
In his opening, Joshua Dratel dropped the bombshell that Silk Road was indeed Ross’ idea, a site he created as a free market, open site with some – but not many – restrictions. An economic experiment. But that after a few months he handed it off to someone else: DPR. Dratel went on to say that Ross was lured back in to take the fall for this character, who set him up to divert law enforcement from closing in on him.
This was not some fairy tale concocted by the attorney. Rather it was supported by evidence contained in 5,000 pages of the government’s own evidence, submitted to the defense. Dratel intended to demonstrate its veracity through cross examination of government witnesses and defense witnesses, both of which were blocked.
We agree with Ross’ attorneys that the trial was not fair. The jury was not allowed to hear the government’s own evidence, favorable to Ross; defense witnesses were blocked from testifying; and Ross’ attorney was hamstrung, unable to effectively cross examine government witnesses. It was a one-sided presentation of only the government’s narrative.
Ross’ attorney has said he will appeal. This is not over. We believe it is essential for everyone to have a fair trial. When a trial isn’t fair it is a threat to us all.
Ross will be sentenced on May 15 in Judge Katherine Forrest’s courtroom, #15A, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse, 500 Pearl St., New York, NY.
And about the murder-for-hire “uncharged” allegations. Although initially alleged to have planned six murders, Ross was never indicted in New York, or at trial, for any. New York also failed to include the one charge remaining in a Maryland indictment, which is over a year old and possibly vulnerable to legal challenges. Joshua Dratel, Ross’ attorney, believes that the absence of the Maryland charge demonstrates the allegation has no merit. Otherwise we believe the prosecution would have indicted Ross for this.
Despite it’s not being a charge, the court permitted the prosecution to accuse Ross of murder-for-hire to the jury, which is highly prejudicial. In addition, it will adversely impact his sentencing. Without a charge, no proof is required. In addition, no victim is named for this or any of the charges in the prosecution’s complaint or the New York indictment.
(Note: The murder-for-hire allegation was included as surplusage, which is an “uncharged crime” mentioned in the narcotics trafficking count of the New York Indictment. It is NOT a formal charge and requires NO PROOF. The defense moved to have it removed as prejudicial and irrelevant to the charges, but the judge denied this request).
This is a good overview from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahjeong/2015/02/03/the-silk-road-trial-that-wasnt/
You can also read about it here: http://freeross.org/government-suppresses-evidence-in-silk-road-trial/
By its own admission, the FBI has no documentation of how they found the Silk Road server, which comprises much of their evidence. Without forensic documentation there is no guarantee that the evidence is valid or even that it wasn’t fabricated. The explanation of how the FBI found the server has been widely discredited by technical and security experts, one calling it “inconsistent with reality”; another “impossible“; and another a lie and gibberish.
This case opens new legal territory. It will set precedent for the 21st century and pave the way for new laws and interpretations that could impact the future and freedom of the Internet. Bad law could be ushered in that we will be forced to live with.
As attorney Scott Greenfield said in regard to this case: This is the birth of law as applied to our digital future. Watch it as a spectator at your peril.
- Basing a case on digital evidence, by its nature unreliable and easily manipulated, creates a dangerous precedent going forward. It is a very low standard of proof, which puts us all at risk. As Ross’ attorney said, digital evidence can be easily fabricated, edited, distorted, hacked, moved and modified.
- Now that Ross has been convicted, basically because of web hosting activity, it opens the door for the censure and erosion of a free Internet. Under present law, website hosts are not held responsible in civil cases for illegal actions on their sites. This case could set precedent and open the door to criminal liability for web hosts.
- A US citizen’s constitutional rights are being violated with vague allegations that do not cite specific crimes, a violation of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the US Constitution. The prosecution has still not met the specific requirements of the “kingpin” charge, but Ross is convicted anyway. This charge alone carries a 20-year mandatory minimum.
In addition, Ross’ Fourth Amendment rights have been violated with illegal warrants and searches and seizures lacking any warrant. If the government can misapply the law against Ulbricht, it can do it to any of us.
- In its documents, the government equates the desire for privacy (use of Tor for example) with criminal intent.
- This case represents the first challenge to the government’s attempt to expand the money laundering statute to include digital currency.
- - To fight for the right to a fair trial, one of the bulwarks of our liberty.
- - To finance Ross’ appeal.
- - To have precedents set in this case reversed.
- - To have Ross ultimately be a free man.
Despite our owing them a huge amount of money, Ross’ attorneys are not deserting him. They are preparing for an appeal, as well as sentencing and working to have Ross placed where he is not in danger. But as always, we are up against the full force of the federal government. We are not the family of a wealthy kingpin. We own no bitcoin. There is no hidden wallet. We are regular people taking on a giant fight against a Goliath.