'Rogue Agents' of no consequence
Dratel's final argument for a retrial involved two government agents, Carl Force and Shaun Bridges, who worked on the Silk Road investigation but were later found to have pilfered millions of dollars in Bitcoins for their own gain in the process. Dratel claimed that had he known about these "Rogue Agents" during the trial, information gained from the investigation into their actions could have exonerated Ulbricht. Judge Forrest disagreed.
"That the Rogue Agents may have exceeded the scope of their authority in the ... investigation does not, in any way, suggest that Ulbricht was not the Dread Pirate Roberts," the judge wrote, referring to the screen name used by the Silk Road site operator.
"There is no reasonable probability of a different outcome here: the circumstances of defendant's arrest, and the evidence found in his own possession at the time of the arrest, are in and of themselves overwhelming evidence of his guilt."
During Ulbricht's trial, the jury heard that he was arrested in a public library in a quiet neighborhood in San Francisco, and that he had a laptop open at the time and was communicating with a Silk Road user while logged in as "Dread Pirate Roberts." The laptop also contained a wallet full of Bitcoins and a wealth of information pertaining to the site, including a detailed diary of Ulbricht's activities that was stored unencrypted.
If anything, Judge Forrest wrote, materials gained from the investigation of Special Agent Force tend to suggest that Ulbricht was trying to pay law enforcement for information about the Silk Road investigation. Such evidence would have done Ulbricht no favors in trial, she added – a point she said she had earlier explained to Dratel in sealed documents.
Countdown to sentencing
With Ulbricht's motion for a new trial denied, all that appears left for him is to await sentencing. At present, that's scheduled to take place on Friday, May 15. Not surprisingly, however, Dratel is pushing to have this hearing delayed, too.
According to a court filing dated last week, the government plans to introduce new evidence at sentencing to the effect that six people allegedly died from overdoses of drugs that they purportedly bought on Silk Road. Dratel argues that he will need additional time to review this material and to compose his rebuttal.
In addition, Dratel wrote, not only did the Ulbricht trial require more legwork than he originally expected, but the extra work has now delayed the case of other clients he is representing. Accordingly, he has asked that Ulbricht's sentencing hearing be delayed by a month, to either of the weeks of June 15 or June 22.
Judge Forrest has ordered the government to provide its view on the matter no later than Tuesday, April 28. ®