Legal Issues

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
dpr, ross ulbricht, silk road

Companies:
silk road



Ross Ulbricht's Lawyers Uncover Evidence Showing His Silk Road Account Was Accessed While He Was Imprisoned

from the TWISTS-FOR-THE-TWIST-GOD dept

The government's Silk Road prosecution is the gift that keeps on giving. On its way to a life without parole sentence for the man behind the dark web drug marketplace, nearly everything that possibly could have happened actually happened.

As more evidence flowed in, more dirt on both sides of the prosecution was uncovered. The government appeared to engage in parallel construction to cover up evidence likely obtained by the NSA. (But the only reason for the coverup would be to protect the NSA's "means and methods," not to provide some sort of Fourth Amendment sanitizing. The Silk Road server was located in Iceland, somewhere the NSA could have performed an interception without troubling its domestic restrictions.)

It also emerged that government investigators had engaged in plenty of illegal activities of their own, including stealing Bitcoin, freezing accounts, and setting up a sting operation designed to rope Ross Ulbricht into hiring someone to kill a thieving employee… apparently set up by the same DEA agent engaged in the theft.

Also uncovered during the trial was the fact that the government had paid Carnegie Mellon researchers to develop a method to de-anonymize Tor users.

Now, there's this, reported by Jason Koebler of Motherboard:

Attorneys for Ross Ulbricht, the man convicted of running the Silk Road online drug marketplace under the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts” say they’ve discovered evidence that someone logged into the Dread Pirate Roberts account on the Silk Road forums six weeks after Ulbricht was arrested. Ulbricht was in federal custody at the time.

[...]

Ulbricht was arrested on October 2, 2013. The Silk Road marketplace was taken down that same day, but the forums stayed up until November 22. His attorneys say that someone logged into the DPR account on the forum November 18.

These new details were uncovered by forensic analysts who studied backups of the Silk Road forums that were entered as evidence by the government during Ulbricht’s first trial. Ulbricht’s attorneys Dratel and Lindsay Lewis say that government tampering calls into question the evidence used to convict Ulbricht.

This could mean a few things. One possibility is that law enforcement agents continued to operate and access DPR's account after the investigation had concluded. Or it may point to one of Ulbricht's original defenses: that someone else actually ran Silk Road. It may be that Silk Road was run by multiple people, but the government was only able to track down Ulbricht.

Ulbricht's attorney seems to believe it's the last possibility on that list:

It’s unknown whether other Silk Road administrators had the username and password for the DPR account, whether there actually were other “real” DPRs, or whether government officials were somehow able to get the DPR login credentials.

“They had access only to Ross’s laptop,” Lewis told me. “I don’t think they had access to the login credentials.”

It could very well be that the government believes there were multiple DPRs, but felt that one DPR was more than enough for the purposes of prosecution. If so, its handling of this case echoes that of journalist Matthew Keys, who the government hung out to dry over 40 minutes of website defacement performed by someone else. Zero effort has been made to punish those who actually participated in the small-scale hacking of the LA Times website. The government seemed more than satisfied to let Keys carry all of this weight on his own.

This new information doesn't make the government's case look any more solid. Plenty of government deception and misconduct was uncovered during the trial and yet it was still able to obtain a life without parole sentence for Ulbricht and a $184 million fine. Now it looks like the government may have rung up the wrong Silk Road mastermind… or more likely, only one of them. The best case scenario for the government is that it was one of its own logging in and looking around, although it will still have to explain how it got ahold of Ulbricht's login info.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2016 @ 3:28pm

    Or....

    If they had been logging in and manipulating data, they could have set him up from the beginning. Seems like a retrial is in order in light of this new information that seems to have been withheld from the defense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2016 @ 3:45pm

      Re: Or....

      not a chance...

      Juror's lack the intelligence because the system actively selects the dumbest and most ignorant jurors possible. People are more worried about who they are voting for as president than stopping real corruption.

      The people already know that the government lies, they do nothing.

      Every nation gets the government it deserves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Quiet Lurcker, 6 Dec 2016 @ 3:48pm

      Re: Or....

      We're more into 'dismiss with prejudice and imprison the feds for their misbehavior' territory at this point.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 6 Dec 2016 @ 3:35pm

    Life sentence

    Fact is he likely deserves the life sentence legally just for his part whatever it was.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      anonymouse, 6 Dec 2016 @ 4:09pm

      Re: Life sentence

      "Fact is he likely deserves the life sentence legally just for his part whatever it was."

      The problem is that if the government has the login credentials there it creates a large amount of doubt about who controlled the account, Mr. Ulbricht or the government.
      And the problem with taht is that the words on that forum the government used to convict him with... could easily have come from the government themselves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2016 @ 4:34pm

      Re: Life sentence

      I have a little trouble with a life sentence for, basically, running a web site. Even hiring a hit man was part of a sting.

      Even convicted rapists and murderers sometimes get off with less.

      But maybe that's just me.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2016 @ 5:35pm

        Re: Re: Life sentence

        Imagine the sentence Jordan would have requested if Ulbricht was being charged for downloading songs!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2016 @ 9:04pm

      Re: Life sentence

      > Fact is he likely deserves the life sentence legally just for his part whatever it was.

      "Whatever it was", huh? So, he deserves a life sentence regardless of what he did or didn't do. I see.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 7 Dec 2016 @ 1:45am

      Re: Life sentence

      "deserves the life sentence legally just for his part whatever it was"

      Well, there's the problem. You don't know what he did, but you're sure that the law demands that he spend the rest of his life in jail regardless...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daydream, 6 Dec 2016 @ 4:13pm

    Quick question!

    Did whoever logged into the Silk Road account actually engage in purchases/sales or administrative stuff, or were they just dropping in?

    If it were just a drop-in, then it might be police after all, but if whoever accessed the account actually did stuff, then that's pretty damning for the prosecution.

    ...Unless, you know, Ross gave his username and password to a trusted someone to manage things for him in case he was ever arrested.
    That actually sounds like the most likely thing to me, given my poor knowledge of this case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 6 Dec 2016 @ 4:19pm

    Or it could be that those same criminal government agents continued to run silk road in attempt to further frame him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymouse, 6 Dec 2016 @ 6:37pm

      Re:

      "Or it could be that those same criminal government agents continued to run silk road in attempt to further frame him."

      Not like there is no precedent for that at all! If the government is willing to upgrade and operate a child pornography website I'm sure they would have no problems operating a drug market.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2016 @ 4:35pm

    Ross Ulbricht is more than likely still guilty and justice needs to be carried out (fair and blind justice, not whatever kind of Justice® brand justice the government serves up these days) but the DOJ, DEA, NSA, FBI and every other 3 letter agency has EARNED every bit of distrust they get these days. They should never be given the benefit of the doubt because they always seem to be hiding something dishonest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 7 Dec 2016 @ 5:30am

    Silk road had a ton of badness on it and was more than engaged in illegal activities and that fact isn't in dispute while Ulbricht played a huge part of being the head of it and is no saint, the fact that Law Enforcement personnel connected to it have been charge and found guilty of crimes is more than troubling.

    How is that the trial Judge who heard this case doesn't believe that the goverment and the Law Enforcement agencies who worked on the case and gathered the evidence used to prosecute Ulbricht can honestly say that this case wasn't tainted and that the evidence isn't questionable?

    This case was and is a fucking mess. You have corrupt Law Enforcement agents who used their knowledge and how this case was being investigated to commit crimes in which they were prosecuted for and more and more details seem to show that the evidence gathered is questionable due to all the misconduct going on while the investigation was ongoing.

    I am no way a fan of Ulbricht's what he was doing was more than criminal and is in no way innocent, but the illegal shit that has gone on in his case is by agents connected to the case is more than enough to raise serious questions about the evidence used to prosecute him and Ulbricht deserves to have an appeal heard and let the appellate court have the details of what has transpired with Agents being prosecuted and the unanswered questions as to how the evidence against Ulbricht shouldn't be tossed considering the revelations that have been brought to light the last while.

    The whole case is honestly in the toilet and for the courts to let Ulbricht's conviction stand as more and more questionable details and illegal conduct by law enforcement comes is a travesty.

    Does Ulbricht deserve to be punished for the illegal activities that he helped foster at Silk Road, yes he does, but not with the evidence and due to the illegal conduct conducted in the course of the investigation by agents involved with the case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 7 Dec 2016 @ 8:18am

    "“They had access only to Ross’s laptop,” Lewis told me. “I don’t think they had access to the login credentials.”"

    Unless he was using a credential manager like in Firefox.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TRX (profile), 7 Dec 2016 @ 10:52am

    > parallel construction

    i.e., "perjury"

    "It's okay if we're the ones doing it."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2016 @ 2:28pm

    sorry don't agree

    Basically he set up something like ebay but where people could sell whatever they wanted. I don't see ebay being tried for all the scams its sellers engage in. or Fed-x for shipping drugs sent by it's customers.

    The federal government tried the owner of the infrastructure for the crimes committed by the users of the infrastructure.

    There was definite entrapment going on. and the charge for the supposed contract killing was dropped.

    The punishment seems also to fall under 8th Amendment interdictions.

    Amendment VIII
    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    Ridiculous sentences for crimes involving computers are more the norm than the exception. Probably because 1. law enforcement is given a blank check to do whatever in the "war on drugs", and 2. because judges are too stupid to understand computer technology, so they are afraid of it. And when you add fear to lack of understanding you get witch trials.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2017 @ 2:45pm

    not to in any way diminish the seriousness of the court's misconduct in this trial but, if the worst case scenario happens and he ends up serving 'life in prison', doesn't that mean 25 years?

    25 yrs is not great, especially seeing as there's so much doubt regarding the extent of his involvement (let alone the actual damage done by it), but it's something. If he's just got a standard sentence, he could be out by the time he's in his 50s right?

    I hope so, anyway... better still would be a retrial.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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