Silk Road boss and armchair drug lord Ross Ulbricht has appealed both his conviction on narcotics trafficking and other charges and the life term in prison to which he was sentenced.
Ulbricht's attorney Joshua Dratel notified the court of the appeal via the standard form, which reveals little about his strategy other than that he will plead Ulbricht's case before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
The government brought seven federal charges against Ulbricht, including trafficking in drugs and fraudulent IDs, money laundering, computer crimes, and "engaging in a criminal enterprise." Following a swift trial in February, a 12-person jury found Ulbricht guilty of all seven.
US District Judge Katherine Forrest, unmoved by Ulbricht's pleas for leniency, sentenced him to life in prison on May 29.
Actually, she handed him multiple sentences: one for five years, one for 15 years, one for 20 years, and two for life. But while the judge decreed that Ulbricht cannot be paroled, the sentences are to be served concurrently – so life it is.
Dratel immediately said he would appeal, and now he has. It is thought he may try to persuade the appeals court that Ulbricht's defense was undermined by the fact that at the time Dratel was preparing it, he was not made aware that two government agents involved in the Silk Road investigation had allegedly stolen millions of dollars in Bitcoin from the site.
If that is his plan, however, it's doubtful that argument will be enough to overturn Ulbricht's conviction. Dratel tried the same angle when he petitioned Judge Forrest to grant Ulbricht a new trial, but the judge rejected it outright, saying the evidence against Ulbricht was "overwhelming."
Dratel has also complained that Judge Forrest "eviscerated" Ulbricht's defense when she barred Dratel from presenting evidence in support of his major thesis: that Ulbricht was really just a fall guy and that the true overlord of Silk Road was someone else.
Judge Forrest struck from the court record most of the testimony Dratel presented after prosecutors objected that it was largely hearsay and that it relied on witnesses to testify to their opinions, not to facts they actually knew.
The timing of the appeal hearing is not yet known.
Even if Dratel does manage to have Ulbricht's conviction overturned, however, the Silk Road kingpin must still stand trial for murder solicitation charges in Maryland. ®