Judge Katherine Forrest denied a motion by the defense of Ross Ulbricht, convicted as the operator of Silk Road, that requested a retrial.
Throughout the trial, the defense made calls for a mistrial on numerous occasions, each of which was flatly rejected by Judge Forrest. The latest motion aggregated earlier arguments, with some significant additions. They are summarized as follows, along with Forrest’s rebuttals:
(1) Based on the Brady Rule, Ulbricht’s 5th Amendment rights were violated. Evidence that potentially could have served in his favor was not presented soon enough for the defense to make use of it.
Forrest rejected this argument, saying that even if true, the evidence would not have changed the outcome. In her scathing 25-page rejection, she repeatedly referred to the “overwhelming evidence” against Ulbricht. On this argument, she writes:
“Ulbricht was caught red-handed—logged in and chatting as DPR on a personal laptop, which Ulbricht unquestionably owned, filled with Silk Road files. In the face of this mound of evidence, there is no faint possibility, much less “reasonable probability,” that the jury would have reached a different verdict had the Government produced the Karpeles/Athavale Materials earlier.”
(2) The recent charging of two federal law enforcements agents for embezzling bitcoins in the course of the Silk Road investigation, among other crimes, was used by the defense to argue that evidence against Ulbricht may have been tainted.
Forrest countered that among other flaws in the argument, the agents were part of a Baltimore division of the investigation, not the New York-based team which ultimately pursued Ulbricht.
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(3) The Brady Rule issue was compounded by the prosecution introducing additional evidence throughout the trial.
Forrest pointed out that such a process is acceptable provided that the parties engage in good faith. In addition, the defense was apparently okay with it at the time.
(4) Prosecutors unlawfully hacked and gained access to Silk Road servers.
This argument was already rejected pre-trial on the basis that Ulbricht did not attest to his personal privacy interest. If he would have, then would be implicating himself as the true “Dread Pirate Roberts”, counter to the defense’s claim.
(5) The court did not allow testimony from Bitcoin experts such as Andreas Antonopoulos.
This argument was rejected on the grounds that such testimony was irrelevant and poorly timed.
Ulbricht faces from 20 years to life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for May 15, although the defense has asked that it be moved to a later date in order to better argue against a life sentence, according to a report by Wired. In addition, the defense still plans on appealing the case.