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Silk Road Mastermind Ross Ulbricht Won't Get a New Trial, Judge Rules

The evidence against him is "overwhelming," she ruled.
April 28, 2015, 1:04am
​Screengrab: ​Free Ross

​A judge denied Ross Ulbricht's appeal for a new trial Monday, saying that there is an "overwhelming" amount of evidence against the convicted mastermind of the dark web's Silk Road market.

In February, Ulbricht who was found guilty on all seven counts (including money laundering and drug trafficking) stemming from the operation and creation of the site. Judge Katherine Forrest filed a 25-page opinion denying Ulbricht's motion for a new trial based in part on evidence of agent corruption in a federal investigation related to Silk Road.

Ulbricht's attorneys claimed he was denied his right to a fair trial because information regarding the agents' corruption was not provided to the defense in a timely manner, rendering them unable to prepare an adequate defense before the trial.

"There is no reasonable probability of a different outcome here"

But Forrest said the rogue agents' activity would do nothing to exonerate Ulbricht, citing the extensive evidence found on his laptop implicating him in the operation of the site, as well as the fact he admitted to creating it from the beginning.

"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," Forrest wrote.

Much of Ulbricht's defense rested on an alternative perpetrator theory: that Ulbricht created the site, but then handed it over to someone else (who at one point was implied as being Bitcoin entrepreneur Mark Karpeles). The defense argued that the site was then returned to Ulbricht, leaving him to take the fall when law enforcement was closing in, and that the evidence found on his laptop was somehow planted there.

After detailing the list of evidence against Ulbricht presented in the trial, Forrest said in her response that the defense never showed adequate evidence of Ulbricht handing over the site to someone else.

"The jury was not presented with any evidence that the laptop which Ulbricht possessed at the time of his arrest was ever out of his possession since he had purchased it (and it had been delivered to his home address)," she wrote. "It was also not presented with any evidence that someone—or some automated process— could, much less did, populate Ulbricht's hard drive with any of the evidence described above, located in different files and in different places on the computer."

Forrest also responded to an assertion in the defense's motion that the government may have discovered the Silk Road server through "warrantless Tor network surveillance" and the allegation that the government carried out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Many have argued that if the server was hacked, it is a violation of Ulbricht's Fourth Amendment rights. Forrest said Ulbricht continues to deny ownership of the server, and thus has given up his ability to object on those grounds.

Ulbricht faces up to life in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced May 15, although his defense team requested the sentencing be delayed by a month to allow a response to allegations by the government that drugs from the site killed six people. Ulbricht has already said he will appeal his conviction.