Blocked Defense Witnesses

During trial, the government brought witnesses, including a bitcoin witness and computer witnesses. They were allowed to speak about highly technical and complex aspects of the evidence, far beyond the understanding of the average person. Some of this evidence was generated and provided only mid-trial, yet the defense was denied a recess to review it.

To refute and challenge the government testimony on bitcoin and technical issues, the defense called two expert witnesses: Andreas Antonopoulos, a world-renowned bitcoin expert; and Steven Bellovin, a computer networking and security expert from Columbia University. Yet these two witnesses were not permitted to take the stand. Antonopoulos would have explained the flaws in the government explanation on bitcoin. Bellovin could have explained many technical issues to the jury, including the lack of security of open ports; how timestamps can be changed; and why complex technology behind hidden websites makes it almost impossible to prove anything.

Consequently, Ross was deprived of the vital opportunity to challenge the government testimony and evidence. Defense attorney, Joshua Dratel, stated:

“By precluding the defense experts, who would have countered the complex testimony regarding bitcoin presented by the government, the government witnesses’ testimony essentially went unchallenged, and Ulbricht was denied his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to present a defense.” – Ross’s appeal, page 79 [PDF]