Ross William Ulbricht, alias Dread Pirate Roberts, the infamous Silk Road mastermind, has faced yet another obstacle in his quest to attain freedom.
Apart from previous failed attempts at convincing the courts to reduce his life sentence, the once-powerful darknet leader is once again facing critical objections from the U.S. government.
It has been established that, in the early morning hours of September 17, the U.S. government filed an appellee brief with the Court of Appeals, in which a firm suggestion was made by U.S. attorneys to reject Ulbricht’s claims.
In the same breath, the brief maintained the legitimacy of the District Court’s decision to slap Ulbricht with a harsh sentence—the court still claims it operated rightfully.
Just to recall, what particular snippets characterized Ulbricht’s appeal? Let’s take a look at the recent filings in the case.
First, a February 5 order dismissing his petition for a time extension to provide a motion to the effect of his new trial, as enshrined in Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The second order, dated February 21, rejected Ulbricht’s request for consideration.
Both orders were submitted by Katherine B. Forrest, the same judge that delivered Ulbricht’s life sentence in 2015.
A Host of Motions—The Details
Ulbricht’s motions were centered on new data, at least according to him.
It is known that during the entire investigatory phase of the Ulbricht case, the government had initiated five pen register and trap and trace data (Pen/Trap) orders.
Among the motions was his request for an extension of time to make filings to the effect of Rule 33’s motion.
This, according to Ulbricht, was aligned to purported new evidence accruing from the five Pen/Trap orders.
Unfortunately, for him, the District Court rejected the motion regarding Rule 33.But what does Rule 33 provide?
In its full relevance, Rule 33 gives the defendant a chance to change the course of a trial owing to the emergence of a motion tabled by the accused.
In this respect, the court may abandon judgement and sanction the beginning of a fresh trial according to the needs of justice.
Thus, the jurisprudential substance of the motions provided by Ulbricht, in the context of new evidence, had the potential to lay a foundation for the defendant’s acquittal.
In fact, the U.S. attorneys explain that motions based on new evidence can free a man if the evidence becomes discovered after a trial.
Ultimately, the District Court was prudent in rejecting Ulbricht’s call for a time extension to allow him file a Rule 33 motion.
This stems from the fact that the former Silk Road mastermind failed to prove that the Pen/Trap data qualified to be “newly discovered” evidence, which would be substantial to his defense and amount to his acquittal.
Ulbricht’s Perspective of New Evidence
According to Ulbricht’s account, the new evidence denotes:
- The Pen/Trap data for three orders, which would, expectedly, be in the custody of the magistrate – in three files.
- New Pen/Trap data that was newly discovered by the federal government, which was supposed to be fronted to the defense.
- Evidence sourced from a book documenting the Ulbricht case, called American Kingpin, which explicated details originating from Ulbricht’s trial. In particular, it claimed that the investigating body had invaded the defendant’s residence to surveil him, due to the Pen/Trap orders.
The Legal Challenge
The U.S. attorneys have challenged the merit of Ulbricht’s claims.
Concerning this, the occurrence of the Pen/Trap data was already brought to the attention of Ulbricht long ago, in early 2014.
Thus, the District Court did not operate outside its discretion by challenging Ulbricht’s move to front a rather pointless Rule 33 motion.
At this point, Ulbricht will still serve his sentence.
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