“This is no fishing expedition”, Judge reacts to Silk Road’s Ross Ulbricht request for new trial

Maria Nikolova

“A rule 33 motion is not an opportunity to re-litigate that which has been litigated, or to engage in a fishing expedition for new evidence”, says Judge Katherine B. Forrest.

Dread Pirate Roberts is not going on a fishing expedition… On Monday, February 5, 2018, Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the New York Southern District Court issued a number of orders regarding motions by Ross William Ulbricht, aka the Dread Pirate Roberts, the mastermind of the notorious online marketplace Silk Road.

Let’s recall that Mr Ulbricht got a life imprisonment sentence in February 2015. Silk Road operated using the Tor Network and the marketplace users mainly bought and sold drugs, false identification documents, and computer hacking software. Transactions on Silk Road used Bitcoins, favoured because of the anonymity it grants.

According to the government, between 2011 and 2013, Silk Road was used by thousands of vendors to sell about $183 million worth of illegal drugs, along with other goods and services. Ulbricht, acting as DPR, generated millions of dollars in profits from the commissions collected by Silk Road on purchases.

Mr Ulbricht had sought an extension of time in which to submit his Rule 33 Motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The counsel for the defendant said he needed an extension until May 7, 2018, to file the motion as he had not yet received the complete client file from prior trial and had trouble obtaining data from the FBI. The counsel also noted that there is new information (revealed in the book “American Kingpin”) showing that the FBI used electronic surveillance to track the movement of Mr. Ulbricht.

According to the counsel for the defendant, the way FBI collected their data as well as the data itself were essential and should have been provided before the trial. The counsel demanded access to the new data to substantiate the Rule 33 Motion.

On Monday, Judge Katherine B. Forrest denied the motion to extend time for a Rule 33 motion.

“A rule 33 motion is not an opportunity to re-litigate that which has been litigated, or to engage in a fishing expedition for new evidence” – Judge Katherine B. Forrest.

The Court takes into account that the defendant’s counsel was not involved in the trial, but the transcript reveals that the very evidence to which he now points (that the FBI was monitoring the defendant’s online movements) was explicitly known at the trial. “This is not new news”, the Judge says. As to an inability to obtain the file, that does not suggest any basis for a new trial or indeed, whatever is in the file was necessarily known to prior counsel. No good cause to delay the deadline has been shown, she concludes.

Let’s recall that in May 2017, the 2nd United States Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Ulbricht’s life imprisonment sentence.

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