This is not a huge surprise, but the judge who oversaw Ross Ulbricht’s trial for being the guy behind the original Silk Road wasted very little time in flat out rejecting his request for a new trial. To say that Judge Katherine Forrest is skeptical of his arguments would be an understatement. First, the straight up denial:
There is no basis in fact or law to grant the motion and it is DENIED.
And the basic idea behind the reasoning: overwhelming evidence that Ulbricht is guilty, according to the judge:
The evidence of Ulbricht’s guilt was, in all respects, overwhelming. It went unrebutted. This motion for a new trial urges that Ulbricht was prejudiced by that which he could not know in time, or at all. But the motion does not address how any additional evidence, investigation, or time would have raised even a remote (let alone reasonable) probability that the outcome of the trial would be any different.
It then proceeds to lay out the rather long list of evidence pointing a finger directly at Ulbricht to demonstrate just how little Ulbricht’s side has going for his argument.
As for the three arguments made for a new trial, Judge Forrest finds none of them convincing. This included the fact that the Justice Department dumped a bunch of things on Team Ulbricht less than two weeks before the trial, including the investigation into two federal officers who were stealing money themselves from Ulbricht — information that was revealed to Ulbricht’s lawyers, but which they were barred from using at the trial, as the investigation was still ongoing at the time.
Despite the attention given to the Rogue Agents issue in defendant’s brief, this Court remains unclear (as it always was) as to how any information relating to that investigation is material or exculpatory vis-à-vis Ulbricht. Either the defense assumes the answer is so obvious that it need not explain, or its omission is purposeful. For purposes of the instant motion, this Court assumes that defendant believes he was deprived of information which would have revealed that (1) the Rogue Agents’ conduct may have tainted any evidence relating to the website (since they assumed identities on the site), (2) the Rogue Agents may provide a link to someone (including themselves) who may have taken over the DPR account and framed Ulbricht, and/or (3) the Rogue Agents may know the identity of the real DPR. There is no basis in the record—including in any of what defendant has cited regarding the Rogue Agents—which supports any one of these theories. These theories are based on no more than speculation and premised on erroneous assumptions as to the scope of discovery obligations and the meaning of exculpatory evidence.
To start, there is no basis for this Court to believe that any undisclosed materials relating to the Rogue Agents would have been remotely useful, let alone exculpatory, vis-à-vis Ulbricht. The Rogue Agents did not participate in the USAO-SDNY’s investigation of Silk Road that resulted in defendant’s arrest and indictment, and none of the evidence at defendant’s trial came from the USAOBaltimore investigation in which the Rogue Agents participated. That the Rogue Agents may have exceeded the scope of their authority in the USAO-Baltimore investigation does not, in any way, suggest that Ulbricht was not the Dread Pirate Roberts. As this Court explained in an earlier (sealed) ruling on this topic, the investigation of SA Force is, if anything, inculpatory as it suggests that Ulbricht, as DPR, was seeking to pay law enforcement for inside information to protect his illegal enterprise.
Moreover, even if defendant could point to a favorable piece of evidence from the investigation of the Rogue Agents, defendant has not constructed any argument that had he had earlier disclosure, the result of the trial may have been different. 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.
Ulbricht’s other arguments fail, meaning it’s likely that his lawyers will now move on to the appeals court to see if it has any more luck there, but it seems like a massive long shot.