Prosecutorial Abuse

Tales of prosecutorial abuse are ubiquitous and Ross’ case is no exception. Some examples:

Preclusion of evidence

Two corrupt federal investigators (now in prison) had the run of, and stole from, the Silk Road site. The prosecution aggressively moved to prevent any reference to them or their activities to hide them from the jury.  This was in violation of the Brady Rule, established law that says evidence favorable to a defendant is not allowed to be hidden.

Illustration: The Economist

The prosecution concealed all information about these agents from the defense for nearly nine months, revealing it only five weeks prior to trial. The defense filed numerous discovery requests about this corruption and received no response from the prosecution.

The prosecution insisted that the corruption charges must be kept sealed because revealing it at trial would compromise the investigation into the agents. Yet the agents had known for months that they were being investigated and law enforcement had already interviewed them. Despite the defense request that trial delayed until after the investigation, prosecutors refused.

Consequently, the only apparent reason to keep this information secret was to deny the jury essential facts and to deny Ross Due Process, his Sixth Amendment rights to Compulsory Process, effective assistance of counsel and, ultimately, a fair trial.

The fact that there were corrupt agents with unfettered access to the Silk Road site wasn’t all that was kept from the jury. For example, the defense moved to admit a statement made to prosecutors by Andrew Jones the former Silk Road administrator called Inigo. The statement supported the defense theory that there had been multiple people acting as DPR and the identity of DPR had changed in September 2013, shortly before Ross’ arrest. Inigo and DPR agreed upon a prompt so they could be certain they were actually speaking to each other. After all, everyone on Silk Road used assumed identities, everything was anonymous. Yet when Inigo later presented the prompt, “DPR” didn’t know it.

The prosecutors fought having even this simple fact presented to the jury, and the judge agreed.

Document Dump

7,500 pages of 3,500 material was dumped on the defense only a week before trial, although the prosecution had possessed it for a year.

Uncharged allegations

The New York prosecution has never indicted Ross for murder-for-hire, and no one was ever murdered. Yet they used this unproven allegation to deprive Ross of bail and smear his name. New York also failed to include in its case the one Maryland charge, which is over four years old, unproven and possibly vulnerable to legal challenges. Ross’ lawyer believes that the absence of the Maryland charge in the New York trial demonstrates that it has no merit.

Despite the fact that were no charges at trial; no murders occurred; and Ross has no history of violence, the court permitted the prosecution to talk about these “uncharged crimes,” or surplusage, to the jury.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Timothy Howard said to the jury: “Now, to be clear, the defendant has not been charged for these attempted murders here. You’re not required to make any findings about them. And the government does not contend that those murders actually occurred.” But then he proceeded to talk about it for hours.