Papered to Death

At various key points in their prosecution, the government overwhelmed Ross and his lawyers with so much material that, if it were printed on paper, it could literally crush them to death.

The discovery—evidence the government might use at trial—was the first instance of this. Instead of providing only relevant information, the prosecution dumped everything that could conceivably be linked to the case, totaling four terabytes (or two billion typewritten pages). They also used a series of delay tactics and Ross did not get complete access to the evidence until a few months before trial began. In addition, the detention center staff often prevented Ross from reviewing it.

Because it was a near impossible task to view all the material in the short time provided, the defense was still sifting through it a year and a half after the trial ended. It was then that, buried in a copy of the Silk Road forum database, evidence was uncovered, proving that DPR had been logging into his accounts after Ross’s arrest, and that the data itself had been tampered with to conceal conversations between DPR and a law enforcement mole who was feeding him details of the government’s investigation.

Less than two weeks before trial began, the government then dumped over 5,000 more pages of material covering the testimony of their first witness alone.[1] This was the first time the defense heard of the government’s investigation and how their main target worked with rogue government agents who let him “escape justice and leave [Ross] as the wrongfully prosecuted culprit.”[2] However, when Ross’s lawyer tried to use the information in cross-examination, he was prevented, and the evidence was hidden from the jury.

Throughout the trial, the government continuously introduced “hundreds of additional exhibits,”creating “for practical and legal purposes a continually moving target.”

“In fact, what began as only a few new exhibits—fewer than ten—trickling in December 5, 2014, two days after the government’s exhibit deadline, quickly snowballed into dozens of exhibits being added or modified every few days, with a total of approximately 230 new exhibits added after the deadline.” [3]
 

The number of “new Government Exhibits nearly doubled in volume after trial started, with many of those new exhibits provided to the defense only minutes or hours before court began session.” [4]

– Joshua Dratel, arguing for a new trial.

The issue came to a head when, mid-trial, the government added an entirely new witness to their list, who produced a “voluminous spreadsheet and an extraordinarily complex analysis of millions of bitcoin addresses and sophisticated computer software.”[5] They hid this from the defense until the last possible moment before their witness took the stand. Ross’s lawyer asked for “a brief adjournment so that a proper cross-examination could be prepared,” but the judge refused and forced him to proceed on the spot without preparation.[6]

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