Judge denies retrial for 'Dread Pirate' Ulbricht in Silk Road drugs case

Says prosecution's evidence 'went unrebutted'

A US federal judge has rejected convicted Silk Road kingpin Ross Ulbricht's request for a new trial, despite his attorneys' claims of misdeeds on the part of government agents and prosecutors.

"The evidence of Ulbricht's guilt was, in all respects, overwhelming," an unsympathetic District Judge Katherine Forrest wrote in a Monday ruling [PDF]. "It went unrebutted."

Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht's lead attorney, had argued that the reason his defense was so lacking was because the government had left him with no time to adequately prepare. What he really meant is that he was left scrambling to come up with a new strategy after the court rejected his original line of argument.

Dratel spent the early part of Ulbricht's trial trying to construct a bizarre defense in which he claimed Ulbricht, 30, was merely a fall guy for shadowy third parties. The true mastermind behind Silk Road, he alleged, was Mt Gox founder Mark Karpeles (a charge that Karpeles has categorically denied).

Prosecutors objected to this tactic midway into Dratel's presentation, arguing that it relied on testimony that amounted to "hearsay" and "hunches," rather than witnesses' empirical knowledge. Judge Forrest agreed and ruled all such testimony inadmissible – a move that Dratel later complained had "eviscerated" his defense.

'Tactical choices' backfired

When Dratel tried to use the nullification of his evidence on legal grounds as an argument in favor of a new trial for Ulbricht, Judge Forrest wasn't buying it.

"There is a necessary disconnect between this defense theory ... of what really happened, and the theory on this motion [for a new trial]: that defendant has not had the time or information to develop any defense at all," she wrote in her Monday ruling.

Dratel also argued that actions by prosecutors and the court had not given him enough time to gather and present evidence and testimony, further prejudicing his defense. But Judge Forrest found that while prosecutors had complied with all their legal obligations, Dratel himself had not.

"Defense counsel had failed to timely comply with the appropriate disclosure requirements, and that failure was a tactical choice – not an oversight," the judge wrote. She added that Dratel "cannot undo this tactical choice now."

Moreover, she said, there is nothing to suggest that the jury would have arrived at a different verdict had Dratel been able to present the evidence that he now claims he didn't have time to gather.

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021