Proof Found: Essential Evidence Deleted

“If this backup of the forum database had not been found; if log-ins made by DPR after Ross’s arrest were not discovered, no one would be the wiser. This begs the question: how much more is there?”
– Lyn Ulbricht, Ross Ulbricht’s mother.[1]

Essential evidence—proving that someone tampered with the digital information used to convict Ross—was discovered more than a year after trial. The complete statement with details from Ross’s legal team can be read here.

Motherboard article, Nov 29, 2016

The evidence of tampering was buried in an obscure file, deep within the four terabytes of data that was dumped on Ross and his lawyers (this is equivalent to 2 billion printed pages—impossible to sift through in the time allotted before trial).

Why are these findings important?

  • They amplify Ross’s defense at trial that the case’s digital evidence lacked integrity.
  • They support Ross’s defense at trial that DPR was purchasing information from law enforcement sources regarding the progress of the federal investigation, and that as a result DPR devised an exit strategy to escape and set Ross up as the fall guy for everything.

Four Backups: Missing Communications

Four images of the Silk Road forum database were used in the trial evidence against Ross. It is now known these versions were wiped of significant communications between “Dread Pirate Roberts” (DPR) and “notwonderful,” who claimed to be a government employee and offered to sell DPR information about the ongoing Silk Road investigation.

“I’m trying to warn you. The DEA, ICE, POSTAL INSPECTOR, NSI, FBI, CIA, NSA are itching to get credit for your arrest.”
– “notwonderful” to DPR a few months before Ross’s arrest.[2]

Fifth Backup Found: Proof of Tampering

The proof of this is the discovery after Ross’s trial of a fifth backup of the forum database found in an obscure file (a location in which one would not expect it to be found), overlooked by whomever was covering up the evidence. It is a duplicate of the other images, except this one includes conversations between DPR and “notwonderful” that were deleted from the other copies.

The person who deleted the conversations had to have high-level access to evidence. It could have been whoever was behind the notwonderful account trying to protect themselves, or anyone who wanted Ross convicted. The revelation that someone in law enforcement was working with DPR could potentially unravel the case.

In addition, conversations from a critical time period—the six weeks before Ross’s arrest—are missing. These six weeks are crucial because the defense argues that is when DPR conceived and executed an exit strategy to frame Ross before the site was shut down. Although the record shows that payments for information from DPR to “notwonderful” continued after August 15, 2013 (when the discovered backup was made),[3] all communications after that date were not captured by the backup, and were lost when the other copies were tampered with.[4]

It is now established that at least some of the evidence used to convict Ross was altered. We have no way to know how much else was tampered with.

For media coverage, see Reason, Motherboard, Deep.Dot.Web,