Blocked Cross Examination

“In a case in which that lack of integrity of digital information, created and transmitted on an anonymous untraceable internet network, was of paramount importance, and in which the government did not produce a single witness to testify firsthand that Ulbricht authored any of the communications attributable to DPR, and which was permeated by corruption of two law enforcement agents participating in the investigation, the restrictions on cross-examination, and preclusion of expert witnesses offered to overcome those restrictions, eviscerated Ulbricht’s defense and denied him a fair trial.” – Ross’s appeal, page 6 [PDF]

Trial day 3

The first to take the stand at trial was government witness HSI agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan who had spent two years and thousands of hours, under many aliases, on Silk Road and became a trusted moderator called cirrus. He actually helped run the Silk Road. Ultimately, the court banned any questioning of Der-Yeghiayan regarding his strongly held belief that, after a lengthy investigation and probable cause, DPR was Mark Karpeles, at the time CEO of the Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox. (He also testified that he believed that more than one person used the DPR identity).

Jared Der-Yeghiayan
Illustration: Susie Cagle
Mystery meeting

Der-Yeghiayan’s investigation into Karpeles was sabotaged by HSI Maryland agents when they seized $2 million from Karpeles’s account, thereby alerting him that he was under investigation. Maryland was also where corrupt agents Force and Bridges were operating.

Then, in July 2013, HSI Maryland agents met with Karpeles’s lawyers who, according to government evidence, offered them a deal: back off our client and we’ll give you an alternate target as DPR. It is not known what else transpired or may have changed hands at this meeting. However, two months later Ross was arrested and Karpeles, the government’s prime suspect, was not charged.

U.S Attorney Serrin Turner
Illustration: Susie Cagle

Trial day 4: court does a 180

Despite the fact that the judge called Der-Yeghiayan’s testimony “highly relevant,” on January 16, four days later when trial reconvened, she reversed her opinion and prohibited questioning of Der-Yeghiayan regarding an alternate perpetrator. Der-Yeghiayan’s thoughts and beliefs were now ruled off limits; key testimony was stricken from the record; and the jury was instructed to disregard what they had heard.

In addition, the judge retroactively flagged where the prosecution should have objected and sustained those objections. She also directed the prosecutors to identify testimony they wanted stricken from the record and endorsed those strikes.

The judge justified this reversal, saying the idea of an “alternative perpetrator” might “confuse” the jury. Hence, even though this was the government’s agent and witness swearing in sworn affidavits and under oath, it was not allowed.

Joshua Dratel, Ross’s attorney, stated, “My defense has been eviscerated.“ Or, as Forbes put it, completely derailed.

Technical and Forensic Witnesses

Several law enforcement agents testified regarding technical and forensic computer matters. One, computer forensics agent Christopher Beeson, testified that while trying to make a copy of Ross’s laptop he overwrote files’ metadata because he didn’t follow the “Guidelines for Evidence Collection and Archiving.”

Every time the defense attempted to cross-examine these witnesses, the judge repeatedly curtailed or flatly denied it.