Unlike many murderers, rapists, child pornographers and other violent criminals, Ross, a first-time offender, was denied bail by Judge Kevin Fox on November 21, 2013 in the Southern District of New York.
Judge Fox was presented with a substantial bail package including 70 letters strongly attesting to Ross’s character (a record in his attorney’s long experience). Ross’s parents raised over a million dollars in bail commitments and pledges from friends and family.
These pledges represented the life savings, homes and property of regular people, many with few assets. They did not take this risk merely because they love Ross. They did it because they trust him. And they trust him because he has demonstrated throughout his life that he is a reliable man of integrity.
Some of the typical comments regarding bail were:
“I have pledged all my savings because I know and trust Ross. I cannot emphasize enough that trustworthiness and reliability are at the core of who Ross is.”
“I am putting up my life’s savings towards the bail effort. I would be ruined if I were to lose this money. But I know Ross, and I have total faith in him and his promise not to flee.”
“We are putting up our house toward Ross’s bail. I would never consider jeopardizing the roof over our heads if I didn’t think Ross was completely trustworthy.”
These letters came from different countries and all age groups. “Individuals from all aspects and time periods of Mr. Ulbricht’s life affirm that his reliability and integrity have been constants throughout his life,” Joshua Dratel, Ross’s attorney, wrote in the letter to the court.
Yet, Ross’s family was stunned to hear the prosecutor, Serrin Turner, dismiss these letters by declaring that none of the writers knew who Ross really was. As one family member later wrote: “I was shocked in disbelief, listening to the federal prosecutor’s extensive recitation of unproven allegations.”
It is interesting timing that five new unproven murder-for-hire allegations were not revealed until bail hearing day, only to be dropped a few months later. Ross’s attorney received the information only the evening before, making it impossible for him to discuss it with Ross and challenge the accusations at the hearing.
During the bail hearing, Dratel made the case that people charged with serious offenses have been granted bail for decades. He pointed out that if Ross didn’t flee in the past, he would not flee now, when it would devastate his family.
“If he [Ross] is supposed to be this criminal mastermind that they’re alleging, he would have run after DHS agents interviewed him at his home in July.”
– Defense attorney, Joshua Dratel.
The denial of bail was a violation of Ross’s Eighth Amendment rights and was the beginning of a long, and perpetually stunning, schooling in how the government, courts and prosecutors operate.