Almost a year passed since the jury determined Ross Ulbricht (aka. Dread Pirate Roberts) as the sole administrator of the infamous Silk Road marketplace. The man was given a life sentence without parole for his crimes. However, Ulbricht’s defense, as the most important part of the Silk Road admin’s appeal, had submitted a 145 page argument asking for a new trial and calling for a higher court to remove the man’s conviction on seven charges, including conspiracies to traffic in narcotics, money laundering, computer hacking and the “kingpin charge” that is usually reserved for mafia bosses and drug cartel lords. The Silk Road admin’s appeal includes a long list of improprieties and abuses that were made during Ross Ulbricht’s trial. The defense’s most powerful argument is the deed of the court; they allegedly suppressed information about the federal agents investigating Silk Road who used their positions to steal bitcoins from the website and even attempted to extort money from Ulbricht.
The corrupt federal agents, who the defense is referring to, are Carl Mark Force IV from the DEA and Shaun Bridges from the Secret Service. The crimes the two agents have committed haven’t been revealed to Ulbricht’s defense until the Silk Road administrator has been sentenced by the jury.
Joshua Dratel, Ross’ lead attorney made this statement about the case:
“To a significant degree the extent, and in some respects the nature, of Force’s misconduct—as well as Bridges’s participation altogether—was hidden by the government from the defense (and the Court) in this case until after trial. Contrary to the government’s claims and the Court’s decision, the evidence of Force’s (and Bridges’s) corruption was both material and exculpatory.”
The two corrupt agents are only a part of a much longer list against the Southern District of New York court’s decisions in Ulbricht’s trial. For example, before Ulbricht’s sentence, Dratel had already asked Judge Katherine Forrest for a mistrial that was rejected for about five times over the course of the trial in the time frame between January and February 2015. The appeal brief repeats several of those complaints, including the defense’s protest of Judge Katherine Forrest’s decision. Dratel said that he “couldn’t cross-examine prosecution witnesses in detail about alternative suspects they’d discussed as possible owners or administrators of the Silk Road marketplace.” Dratel also mentioned that the search warrant for Ulbricht’s house was considered by him as quite broad for the case and that two expert witnesses were blocked by the judge.
Prosecutors can be expected to reason with saying that Force and Bridges’ offenses had nothing to do with convicting Ulbricht for his own crimes since the two corrupt agents were part of the Baltimore Task Force, not the team led by the New York office of the FBI.
The defense also states that the sentence for Ross Ulbricht was too harsh since the man was given a life sentence without parole. According to them, the Silk Road administrator “only” set up a platform for the sale of drugs and other illegal goods, however, Ulbricht himself did not sell anything on the dark net market.
Finally, Dratel included this statement in the argument:
“The life sentence imposed on 30-year-old Ross Ulbricht ‘shocks the conscience’…and is therefore substantively unreasonable. Accordingly, Ulbricht should be re-sentenced before a different judge to avoid the irremediable taint from the improper factors the Court considered.”