US govt at dismay over Silk Road mastermind’s request for information

Maria Nikolova

The Government requests “in an abundance of caution the opportunity to review any such filings prior to consenting to their being either provided to the defense, or publicly docketed”.

The United States Government appears to be confused over an information request by the counsel of Ross Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, the mastermind of Silk Road, the notorious marketplace that used Bitcoins for its transactions. In a Letter filed with the New York Southern District Court, the government stated that it does not completely understand the request by the defense in the case, captioned USA v. Ulbricht (1:14-cr-00068).

The document, seen by FinanceFeeds, is filed in response to a request by the defense counsel who said he wanted access to all sealed documents in the case. “The Defense wants them all, but cannot make a list”, he said. There is nothing surprising then that the Government said it is “not certain that it has a complete understanding of the universe of sealed documents”.

The Government has some idea on what the documents in question might be:

  1. filings that related to the Northern District of California investigation and prosecution of Carl Force (a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent), which the Government believes were previously unsealed;

  2. filings that related to the “Silk Road 2.0” investigation, and the identity of an undercover agent, which the Government believes no longer need to be sealed.

However, regarding all documents outside of the scope of these two categories, the Government “requests in an abundance of caution the opportunity to review any such filings prior to consenting to their being either provided to the defense, or publicly docketed”.

Let’s recall that Ulbricht is appealing a number of recent decisions by Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the New York Southern District Court.

Ulbricht appeals the decisions of Judge Forrest dated February 5, 2018 and February 21, 2018. In these instances, the Judge denied the motion to extend time for a Rule 33 motion and a petition for a rehearing . Explaining her motives for making the judgement, Judge Katherine B. Forrest said: “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”.

Ulbricht believes that the court has misapprehended, overlooked, or misapplied certain facts and pertinent law. He insists that the court is mistaken in not noting that the evidence he brought to the court’s attention is, in fact, new evidence that was neither disclosed nor known to exist at the time of trial.

What was not known prior to trial, according to Ulbricht’s counsel, was that the US government was using unauthorized surveillance tools to track Ulbricht’s physical movements and location within his residence. Also, the defendant’s counsel says that the government did have additional and material FBI-collected PRTT data (pen register and trap and trace data), evidence that was material to the preparation of the defense because it is data the government relied on in its applications for the laptop and residence search warrants.

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.

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