The court has convicted Ross Ulbricht for creating and running Silk Road – a dark web market site and subsequently handed him a life sentence without parole.
The defense team for Ulbricht has filed a reply brief in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals demanding that Ulbricht should be granted a new trial with a different district judge.
The brief challenges the ruling that Ulbricht used Silk Road for criminal activities and claims that the verdict was unfair.
Additionally, Joshua Dratel (Ulbricht’s lawyer) demands suppression of certain evidence.
Unreasonable sentencing and the illusory deterrence
The brief argues that the sentence imposed upon Ulbricht is unfair. It said that even after the sentencing, there wasn’t any general deterrence of sale of the drugs.
Dratel notes certain individuals who sold the drugs on Silk Road (something which Ulbricht didn’t engage) got short sentences. Even as short as five years.
The reply claims that Judge Forrest arrived at the sentence by considering factors other than those of which the Silk Road creator, Ross Ulbricht, was charged.
Examples of such factors include claims of the deaths caused by drug overdose and allegations of “murder for hire” that the judicial sentence does not pronounce.
That May 29, 2015, life sentence fails to comply with standards of measurement and comparison in entirety.
Engagement of the investigators in corrupt activities
Dratel notes that during the investigation of Ulbricht, two of the investigating officers have been arrested for crimes that relate to their role in the case.
They are Carl Force of the DEA and Shaun Bridges who works for the Secret Service.
However, the government has tried to separate Force from the case against Ulbricht.
The United States Marshal Intake form indicates clearly that Carl Force was the only law enforcement officer in the “arrested” section.
This form was completed on 0ctober 2, 2013.
On the other hand, Shaun Bridges of the Secret Service is known to have engaged in criminal activities for many months.
For example, he was involved in stealing of bitcoins from different accounts on Silk Road using darknet skills and identity theft.
Such information could be useful during the conviction of Ulbricht.
In this regard, the involvement of the crimes committed by Bridges could have contaminated the case leading to a different outcome altogether.
For instance, in the bitcoin theft, he (Bridges) uses his identity theft skills to transfer bitcoins from a customer support representative’ account on the Silk Road site to Mt. Gox, a Japanese company owned by Mark Karpeles.
However, the information pertaining to the investigation of Bridges’ activities on Silk Road will not be disclosed until the end of the trial. And that is proving to divert the case from the expected path.
Court denied Dratel a chance to cross-examine witnesses
According to Joshua Dratel, the court didn’t allow him to cross-examine the witnesses and add more information that could have been critical to the case.
As such, he questions the assertions of the government’s brief that its evidence was not rebutted.
Practically, the court’s evidentiary ruling foreclosed the opportunity for the defense to cross-examine the witnesses.
Such evidentiary ruling if avoided could allow for refuting such evidence provided by the government.
It is also clear that the decision by Judge Katherine Forrest not to permit Dratel to introduce two new witnesses in the trials maimed Ulbricht’s defense.
These two factors lead to an error of accumulation that lead to an unfair outcome.
Violation of Fourth Amendment
The brief also claims that the Fourth Amendment principle of particularity was violated. He substantiates that by highlighting Ulbricht’s digital tracks.
The brief’s final claim is that the Pen Register and Trap Trace Order did not adhere to the statutory limitations hence it was unlawful.
In light of the above, Ulbricht’s lawyer (Joshua Dratel) claims that the conviction and sentencing of his client are unfair and should be reversed.
That Ulbricht should be given a fair hearing by a different district judge, a new trial or a resentencing has been initiated regarding creation, ownership, and alleged criminal operation of the Silk Road.