Nearly five years after his arrest for his role in the creation of the Silk Road online marketplace, Ross Ulbricht was denied a hearing with the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Thursday June 28, the highest court in the United States refused to hear arguments from Ross Ulbricht's attorneys regarding his 2015 conviction and double-life sentence for his role in managing the Silk Road website. The online marketplace allowed users to buy products - legal and illegal - using Bitcoin until it was shut down by the federal government in 2013. Ulbricht was arrested on October 2, 2013 and charged with a range of felonies related to running an alleged criminal empire. In February 2015 he was found guilty and eventually sentenced to two life sentences plus 40 years.
For five years Ross Ulbricht's lawyers, family, and friends have fought the charges, conviction, and sentencing in this prolonged saga involving corrupt federal agents, suppression and denial of evidence and witnesses, and an extraordinarily long sentence for a man with no criminal history. After previous appeals were denied, Ross Ulbricht and his support team decided to seek help from the U.S. Supreme Court. Ulbricht's appeal claimed that federal agents had illegally monitored his Internet traffic to connect him to the Silk Road. Ultimately, the monitoring of Internet traffic led authorities to Ulbricht which led to his subsequent arrest and prison sentence. Ulbricht's appeal stated that this activity violated his constitutional right to be free from unlawful searches.
The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with this assessment and decided not to hear the case. "The Supreme Court's denial of Ross' petition is devastating to us personally, but also to the Fourth Amendment and privacy rights of all Americans," Lyn Ulbricht, mother of Ross Ulbricht, told Activist Post.
We had hoped that not only would Ross receive relief from the Court, but that the federal government would finally be required to obtain a warrant before surveilling and seizing our internet browsing history.
The Ulbricht family and Free Ross have consistently made the point that their fight was not only about Ross, but digital privacy in general.
With this decision, our internet browsing habits remain unprotected and open season for the government to spy on and use at will.
(Bitcoin.com CEO Roger Ver discusses Ross Ulbricht's case)Throughout Ulbricht's trial the government claimed he should be held responsible for all of the illegal drug sales on Silk Road, an estimated $183 million worth of illegal drugs. The federal government also attempted to pin the blame for six drug overdoses on Ross Ulbricht. Finally, the government discussed alleged and unproven claims that Ulbricht attempted to have five people murdered in an attempt to keep his identity private. Despite the fact that these claims have never been proven they continue to be used in the media and court to pain Ross Ulbricht in a negative light.
Ulbricht is not the only individual facing prison time for playing a role in the Silk Road website. Gary Davis of Ireland has been facing charges and extradition attempts for the last five years. Davis is facing charges related to his alleged role as "Libertas," an alias for someone who handled customer service for the online marketplace. The U.S. government claims Davis was paid $6,000 a month by Ross Ulbricht for his help. Davis attempted to fight the extradition charges based on his diagnosis with Asperger’s syndrome. Unfortunately, on July 4 the Irish Court ruled that Davis' condition would not prevent him from being handed over to federal authorities in the U.S.
Let's be clear about the matter: Davis will not get a fair shake in the United States. He will likely have a similar experience as Ross Ulbricht. His witnesses and arguments will be denied or struck from the record. The jury will not get a chance to hear the full story. The feds will get every opportunity to paint him as a criminal. This is exactly what happened to Ulbricht and it will be sad to see Davis face the same courts.
I attended the Silk Road trial and have written extensively about the unfair treatment Ulbricht received. Do yourself a favor and catch up on the details of the case. The major point of contention comes from the discovery that two former federal agents stole hundreds of thousands of dollars during their investigation of the Silk Road. The two defendants are Carl Force, a former special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Shaun Bridges, a former Secret Service special agent.
Force and Bridges were assigned to a task force based in Baltimore investigating Silk Road. Force was the lead investigator working undercover, and Bridges was a computer forensics expert working on the case. These men were ultimately convicted of stealing bitcoins from the site and extorting Ulbricht by posing as a drug dealer. Force plead guilty and got six and a half years in July 2015, while Bridges received just under six years in prison.
Dratel argued that the court “abused its discretion” and denied Ulbricht his constitutional rights to a fair trial by precluding the defense from using the evidence relating to Force’s corruption and denying Ulbricht’s motion for a new trial based on that evidence.
Please stay tuned to Activist Post for future updates on Gary Davis and Ross Ulbricht.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact Derrick@activistpost.com