Yet again the New York prosecution has indicted Ross Ulbricht, and yet again they fail to include any count of murder-for-hire in their latest superseding indictment. This indictment also failed to include the one charge remaining in the Maryland indictment, which is over a year old and possibly vulnerable to legal challenges, according to Ross’ lawyer. He also believes that the absence of the Maryland charge demonstrates that the allegation has no merit. Otherwise the prosecution would have included it and indicted Ross for it instead of having it languish for over a year.
Indictments require a low bar of proof and can exist based on hearsay. It is a common expression that you can “indict a ham sandwich” in this country. I would say the Maryland indictment is one stale sandwich! Until the charges are addressed in trial with actual evidence, nothing is proven.
Excluding murder-for-hire is especially telling as they obviously intended to pile on the charges. They loaded on narcotics trafficking several different (and conflicting) ways and threw in conspiracy to sell fake documents for good measure. Obviously they aimed to bolster their case by increasing the counts. So where’s the murder? If they can deprive Ross of bail and ruin his reputation with it, why don’t they indict him for it?
The government does refer to murder under the Narcotics Trafficking Conspiracy. This is as an uncharged crime, which conveniently requires no proof but goes a long way to prejudice a jury (and the public). Basically the prosecution wants its cake and eat it too: smear Ross’s reputation without having to prove anything. This kind of unproved reference is called surplusage in legalese, and is considered excessive and not relevant to the case. I’ve seen it described as a trial tactic. Certainly it could sway a jury, without even being one of the charges. In response, Ross’ defense team said in its latest pre-trial motions that the court should strike such references from the indictment. Otherwise Ross would be deprived of his due process right to a fair trial, which is guaranteed by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
Despite the media’s blasting out murder-for-hire allegations since day one, they rarely mention that New York– who is running the case –has not indicted Ross for them. Or that the Maryland indictment is sitting inert, poisoning the story but proving nothing. Again these facts did not appear in the mass coverage of this latest indictment. One lone redditor caught it, posting:
Know what conspicuously remains missing from that list? Murder-for-hire. Then added: I am not convinced one way or the other regarding those allegations, but if it does indeed turn out that the US trumped those charges up out of thin air to demonize Ulbricht, that is one of the more evil things I can imagine them doing, and I’ll be quite ashamed of America.
Robert Wenzel later addressed this in his Economic Policy Journal: The Government Dog That Is Not Barking in the Silk Road Case: Were the early allegations made by the government that Ulbricht was involved in murder-for-hire plots just charges made to dirty public opinion and mute libertarian support for Ulbricht? Any time such extreme prejudicial charges are made and not followed through on by government, all related charges should be dropped. It is the only decent thing to do. Is there anyone in government who is involved in the prosecution of Ulbricht decent enough to recognize this and call for all charges to be dropped?
Considering that the people prosecuting this case have not indicted Ross for such grave allegations, these seem like reasonable questions.