Silk Road’s mastermind Ross Ulbricht challenges sentence again

Maria Nikolova

Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, has filed a Motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence.

Ross William Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, the mastermind of Silk Road, the notorious marketplace that used Bitcoins for its transactions, is trying once again to challenge his sentence. On Thursday, October 10, 2019, Ulbricht filed Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence with the New York Southern District Court.

Let’s recall that, in February 2015, a jury convicted Ulbricht of various counts stemming from his founding and operation of an online black market called “Silk Road,” which facilitated the sale of millions of dollars of illegal goods and services.

The counts of conviction were:

  • 21 U.S.C. 841(a), Aiding and Abetting Distribution of Drugs
  • 21 U.S.C. 848(f) Continuining Criminal Enterprise
  • 18 U.S.C. 1030(a),(f) Computer Hacking Conspiracy
  • 18 U.S.C. 1028(a),(f) Fraud with Identification Documents
  • 18 U.S.C. 1956, 4999, Money Laundering Conspiracy

Ross Ulbricht is now challenging the life sentence issued on June 1, 2015 by the New York Southern District Court.

In his Motion, Ulbricht mentions three grounds.

According to Ground One, Ulbricht’s counsel’s lack of adversarial testing of the Government’s case violated Ulbricht’s Sixth Amendment rights.

Ulbricht says his trial counsel conceded Ulbricht’s guilt with respect to the most consequential offenses in the indictment. Trial counsel conceded in his Opening Statement that Ulbricht had created and ran the Silk Road website for a period of time. That concession essentially constituted Ulbricht’s admission of guilt. Stipulations were entered into where counsel agreed that numerous Silk Road vendors sold and delivered illegal controlled substances to a government agent. These concessions and stipulations relieved the government of its burden of proof on the charges against Ulbricht.

The result, says Ulbricht, was a proceeding where trial counsel failed to subject the prosecution’s case to any meaningful adequate adversarial testing in violation of the Sixth Amendment.

According to Ground Two, Counsel provided deficient plea advice to Ulbricht. But for counsel’s deficient advice there is a reasonable probability that Ulbricht would have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to less jail time.

Ulbricht explains that the Government offered him a pre-indictment plea deal with required him to plead guilty to and be subject to a minimum punishment of 10 years and up to life imprisonment. Ulbricht’s attorneys advised him to reject the deal and proceed to trial. Ulbricht was advised that by going to trial instead of pleading guilty he was risking nothing: even if he went to trial and lost, he was counseled that he would be in no worse position at sentencing because the Guideline range would call for a life sentence either way. Ulbricht rejected the Government’s plea offer based on the advice of his attorneys.

Ulbricht says he would have pleaded guilty and accepted the plea offer if his attorneys had properly explained to him the elements that the Government needed to prove. Ulbricht would also have pleaded guilty and accepted the plea offer if he had been advised by counsel that there was a better chance of being sentenced to less than life without the Government’s agreement. Alternatively, Ulbricht would have pleaded guilty “open” to the indictment or the superseding indictment without a plea agreement if his attorneys had explained to him that the Government’s evidence of guilt was overwhelming and he did not have a legally viable trial defense.

According to Ground Three, Counsel was ineffective in violation of the 6th Amendment by conceding all the essential elements of the offense, pleading Ulbricht guilty with no benefit.

Read this next

Digital Assets

US wants Bittrex to settle federal dues before compensating customers

The U.S. government has raised objections to Bittrex’s proposal to compensate its customers, adding to concerns about the resolution of the crypto exchange’s bankruptcy case.

Digital Assets

Binance prepares to suspend US dollar funding after SEC crackdown

Binance.US said it will temporarily suspend US dollar deposits and provided customers with a deadline to withdraw their fiat balances. This decision comes after the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit requesting the freezing of Binance’s assets in the country.

Digital Assets

Januar launches real-time payments network to fill gap made by Silvergate and Signature

“To all the entrepreneurs and innovators out there is a clear message: if you are a legitimate European business working with crypto then Januar is here to provide you with the account and payment infrastructure you need to operate successfully and build the financial system of tomorrow.”

Retail FX

Exness’ active clients top 515K as monthly volume hits $3.35 trillion

FX trading volumes are climbing again as economic uncertainty spurred by recent developments over central banks’ policies encouraged speculators to pile back into the market.


Danske Bank plans signficant investment in digital platforms

“We have decided to significantly increase our investments in our digital platforms, expert advisory services and sustainability, focusing on the areas where we see the best opportunities for profitable growth.”

Digital Assets

ERD DeFi Lending Platform and USDE Stablecoin Unveiled at EDCON 2023

ERD, the Ethereum Reserve Dollar, is a decentralized lending platform and stablecoin that aims to provide a capital-efficient, decentralized, and stable solution to the challenges faced by the stablecoin industry, introducing a minimum collateralization ratio of 110% and a robust liquidation mechanism.

Institutional FX

CMC Markets acquires 33% stake in UK blockchain firm StrikeX

“This is a major strategic investment in the growing Web 3.0 technology space of which StrikeX Technologies gives us access to the very best technology and advancements. StrikeX is a brilliant, young dynamic company, with a very talented team that has its finger on the pulse of fast moving technologies.”

Digital Assets

Archax utilizes Hedera Hashgraph DLT to tokenize interest in abrdn’s money market fund

“It is exciting to see a tangible application of Archax’s tokenization engine working with Hedera and it paves the way for us to look at creating other digital, blockchain-based token investment solutions.”

Institutional FX

Citi connects directly to Hong Kong’s central clearing and settlement system

“In 2020, we were the first sub-custodian in Hong Kong to offer our clients real-time notification of the trade matching status. The latest solution is a continuation of our efforts to provide a complete suite of services that are as close to real-time as possible.”