Ross Ulbricht's Lawyers Were Told About Corrupt Investigators, But Barred From Using That During His Trial

from the hello-due-process-problems dept

We already wrote about Monday’s unsealed criminal complaint against two government agents who were key players in investigating Silk Road — but who used that position to steal Bitcoins and a lot of other questionable behavior. Now it comes out that the Justice Department revealed the existence of this investigation to Ross Ulbricht’s lawyers five weeks before Ulbricht’s trial — but then blocked Ulbricht’s legal team from using that information, even as the Justice Department continued to rely on evidence from both of the apparently corrupt federal agents. Ulbricht’s lawyer, Joshua Dratel, has put out a statement pointing out some of the problems here:

In addition to keeping any information about the investigation from the defense for nearly nine months, then revealing it only five weeks prior to trial, and then moving to keep sealed and secret the general underlying information so that Mr. Ulbricht could not use it in his defense at trial, and then stymying the defense at every turn during trial when the defense tried to introduce favorable evidence, the government had also refused to agree to the defense?s request to adjourn the trial until after the indictment was returned and made public ? a modest adjournment of a couple of months, since it was apparent that the investigation was nearing a conclusion.

Throughout Mr. Ulbricht?s trial the government repeatedly used the secret nature of the grand jury investigation as an excuse to preclude valuable defense evidence that was not only produced in discovery, independent of the investigation of Mr. Force, but also which was only at best tenuously related to that investigation. In that manner the government deprived the jury of essential facts, and Mr. Ulbricht of due process. In addition, the government failed to disclose previously much of what is in the Complaint, including that two federal law enforcement agents involved in the Silk Road investigation were corrupt. It is clear from this Complaint that fundamentally the government?s investigation of Mr. Ulbricht lacked any integrity, and was wholly and fatally compromised from the inside.

Dratel suggests that the corrupt behavior of Force and Bridges raises questions about nearly all aspects of the Ulbricht case, especially since they have already showed that they abused their access to the Silk Road platform in a way that could change the site and account information.

Additional information shows that Force not only acted as “Chief Compliance Officer” for CoinMKT while still employed as a DEA agent (and abusing his ability to use government databases for the job), but as a report from Sarah Jeong at Forbes shows, he also reached out to Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles:

And then even asked about working with Mt. Gox as well, with this bizarre “American government and economy will crash in the next five years” statement:
Just about a month later, when Bridges was the affiant on helping the government seize millions of dollars from Mt. Gox (just days after withdrawing the money he himself allegedly stole from Silk Road), Force emailed Karpeles again, saying “told you should have partnered with me!”
And that doesn’t even get into the fact that the whole “murder plot” that was such a headline grabber in the original criminal complaint only happened after Bridges apparently took the money and Ulbricht reached out to Force to get him to put out a hit on the guy he thought had stolen the money (who had actually been cooperating with the government, which allowed Bridges to get the info to steal the money in the first place).

As we noted in our earlier piece, the criminal complaint shows that Force himself abused his power as a DEA agent to fake a subpoena against Venmo trying to get his own account unfrozen — and it appears that when that didn’t work, Force tried to further abuse his power to seize Venmo’s bank account in response. A snippet from an email he sent to a colleague:

Venmo has since registered with FinCEN, but I want to know if they have state money license remitting licenses in California and New York. Can you check? If not, I want to seize their bank accounts (need to identify them) a la BRIDGES and [M.M.?s] seizure warrants for Mt. Gox.

And here’s the big question: were Bridges and Force really just two “bad apples” in the investigation? Or could it have gone much deeper? As Jeong notes in her report:

During the trial, the defense kept trying to introduce the character of ?mr. wonderful,? a Baltimore DHS agent who coerced a Silk Road moderator into giving her account over to law enforcement. Although many of Force?s aliases are listed in the criminal complaint against him, none of them are ?mr. wonderful.? (In any case, Force is a DEA agent, and ?mr. wonderful? is DHS). Who is mr. wonderful? What exactly did he do?

In other words, whether or not you believe that Ulbricht was DPR, the investigation and trial against him was a complete and utter mess, and these new charges raise an awful lot of questions about the fairness of that trial.

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Companies: silk road

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Comments on “Ross Ulbricht's Lawyers Were Told About Corrupt Investigators, But Barred From Using That During His Trial”

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tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And I thought they (CPAs) had ethics boards and committees to worry about.

They’re one of the evil (and stupid) triplets: lawyers, doctors, and accountants. Borne of ancient guilds (professional associations), speaking in long dead languages (Latin, Greek, and double-entry bookkeeping), they’re all destroyers. With one of each on the payroll, you can be hit from any side, each justified in the establishment’s eyes by historical fact.

eye sea ewe says:

When a justice system allows corruption to run rife

on the government’s prosecution side and prevents the defence a fair trial (even if the defence is a guilty low-life) then justice is NOT served and we should be afraid, very afraid that NO ONE will get justice seen.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re actually guilty of the most heinous crimes or not, if you are prevented from mounting a fair defence in the courts, you become a martyr to the justice system.

This will only lead to the eventual overthrow of the prevailing government and to a self immolation of society. No one wins, everyone loses.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Do we have enough public incidents to raise concerns about confidence in the DoJ?

I mean at this point we know that the department of justice is corrupt from the bottommost clerk to the SCOTUS Jurists. The only reason that we continue to let them arbitrate is because they have guns pointed at our respective heads.

Maybe it’s not public enough for waiting rooms full of jurors to simply say they have no confidence in the system, and therefore they will willfully cause trouble, including hanging or nullifying juries. As is their legal right and duty to a nation gone wrong.

Once upon a time I’d ask how can this happen that one side gets access to evidence that the other side does not. Now it has happened I have to ask why is there no outrage?

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Do we have enough public incidents to raise concerns about confidence in the DoJ?

… nullifying juries.

People have gone to jail for telling potential jury members about nullification. You won’t end up on a jury these days if either side hears you advocate for it. $deity forbid we have any say in the matter of what are good or bad laws. Thank your lucky stars they let you vote every two years or so.

If it was my country, Congress would have congressional committees all over their ass, but that’s just my pipe dream.

“Why is there no outrage?”

Why’s this considered legal? It looks like stuff I read about in Rise And Fall of The Third Reich.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Comparisons to Nazi Germany

I’ve mentioned this before. Our society is policed by privileged friekorps. We speak openly of the untermenschen and the judenfrage. The nation already has declared a state of emergency in order to centralize power and suspend personal rights.

We even have taken steps to designate, detain and torture Lebensunwertes Leben.

It’s a good thing we don’t have a moustachioed charismatic leader. That would make it too obvious.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Comparisons to Nazi Germany

The powers that be are aware enough of history to avoid building a cult of personality around a particular individual. Instead they prefer to build cults around Team Red and Team Blue, convincing the people that each is opposed to the other and is a threat to the fabric of our nation, the idea being to set us at each other’s throats and stop us from working together to effect change.

So instead of one Great Leader, we have a Choice of One (Out Of Two) Cause(s), as demonstrated by the partisan trolls that occasionally infest this fine website’s comments. The outcome is the same: Heil Cause Of My Choice!

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: NO outrage.

A few folks harrumphing on a blog comment board is easily dismissed as paranoid libertarian-hippy-paramilitants quacking about government conspiracy along with their UFO delusions.

(I get this because that’s what I sound like when I rant at my friends about DoJ abuses or the police state or mass surveillance or the continuing torture program or GUYS, THIS IS ALL TRUE! THIS IS LIKE REAL WORLD CRAP!)

Maybe I want Mr. Oliver to do a Last Week Tonight bit on how fucked up our justice system is and that it might be a bad idea to rely on it for actual justice.

Yeah, a LWT bit would be the bare minimum amount of outrage I would find satisfactory.

eye sea ewe says:

Re: Injustice in the justice system causes

a disillusionment about how you will treated by that justice system. Irrespective of how guilty the man is, not being able to mount a fair defence gives rise to doubts about his guilt, his sentencing, etc.

I have been in the position of being on jury for a murder trial. The one feature was that the police involved gave only the facts they had and they added nothing else. It was other witnesses (and not the expert witnesses) that ended up showing the accused as being guilty. In this case it was the evidence of a prosecution witness and a defence witness that brought about his downfall.

The point is that the police officers in question, simply gave (as their evidence) only what they actually had from the investigation. Based on that alone, no decision could have been made about his guilt. There was no colouring of speech. In fact, the evidence presented was as dry as you could get. When they were asked for any views they may have had, they offered nothing except what they had in their notes. No opinions were offered/presented at all. It was the first time I had ever seen an impartial observer, even though I had heard of this. Now the above was well over thirty years ago. How it has changed in the meantime, I cannot tell you.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Those corrupt and responsible...

…will probably be discovered in a deep scan of the archives decades from now, assuming they aren’t willfully destroyed.

Willful destruction of the data is a significant possibility considering many in the US believe that historical revisionism is in order to preserve certain ideologies (e.g. American exceptionalism).

It will be a massive and tedious endeavor that will thrill historical archeologists to their curling toes.

GEMont (profile) says:


“…raise an awful lot of questions about the fairness of that trial.”

I cannot imagine why anyone would have questions about the fairness of the trial.

After all, this is the DEA, DHS and USG.

There is absolutely no possibility whatsoever of anything remotely resembling fairness when you’re dealing with these “law-unto-themselves” criminal organizations.

Any fairness discovered in such a case would obviously have been a simply mistake, or something they overlooked when manufacturing evidence, faking witness testimony or rewriting investigation records.

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