The judge presiding over the pretrial of alleged Silk Road kingpin Ross Ulbricht has smacked down the accused's attempts to have some charges dropped ahead of the start of next week's trial.
Judge Katherine Forrest's decision was given orally during December with the court stating its reasoning would be published in full, which has now happened.
Ulbricht's lawyers had asked the court to preclude evidence relating to Silk Road product listings and transactions; the “murder-for-hire” accusations; various government exhibits; evidence of fraudulent documentation; and various other related items.
The judge has now explained in detail why she comprehensively smacked down the requests, and in doing so has provided a hugely detailed outline of the evidence the Feds hope will put Ulbricht behind bars.
Most damning if it stands up in the trial will be the murder-for-hire evidence. While the government states that no murders were apparently carried out, the allegation Ulbricht solicited murders is based not only on extensive records of communications between him and others (recovered from his laptop), but also transaction records between DPR and Silk Road user “redandwhite”.
And there's the matter of trying to solicit an undercover Drug Enforcement Agency to carry out one of the murders Ulbricht wanted.
If they survive the evidence process in a trial, Ulbricht's communications and conversations include repeated claims that he had contract killings carried out. For example: “On February 23, 2013, Ulbricht reported to CC-1 that he had successfully arranged the Employee’s capture and execution” (page 5).
“Redandwhite” also made repeated claims to have carried out murders for money, and been paid by DPR, something which will no doubt draw a lot of attention in evidence when the trial starts.
Another angle closed off by the judge is that the electronic messages recovered by the Feds from Ulbricht's laptop, server logs and other sources can't be authenticated to Ulbricht.
On that matter, the ruling is that the prosecution's ability to authenticate the messages sufficiently to satisfy a jury is “best answered at trial”.
The trial is scheduled to begin on 13 January. Ulbricht denies the charges. ®