And while the judge has busied himself with blocking Ross Ulbricht, the previously convicted Silk road creator isn’t resting on his laurels.
He wants the Supreme Court to hear his case as well.
Ross Ulbricht has quite a resume when it comes to achievements.
He is the main that the courts convicted of creating and operating the very popular underground drug website known as Silk Road.
Now, we know that a federal judge is overseeing Ross Ulbricht’s trial.
New media reports say that the federal Judge has actually denied Ross Ulbricht and his legal team of an attempt to extend the duration of the normal three-year window that the law allows as a post-conviction relief.
However, in essence, the federal judge’s move is quite clever.
The federal judge clearly made the move in order to stifle the extraordinary efforts of Ross Ulbricht’s new attorney.
Ross’s new attorney wanted to re-open Ross Ulbricht’s case with the help of some new exculpatory evidence.
Because there is always an off-chance that such exculpatory evidence might exist.
The United States District Judge Katherine Forrest went ahead and blocked Paul Grant’s, Ulbricht’s lawyer, efforts to convince the court to allow his client to go beyond the standard allocated 36-month period.
District Judge Katherine Forrest did that on February 5 via a brief handwritten note.
The period that Ulbricht’s lawyer wanted to take advantage of is known as the Rule 33 motion in the United States of America.
Readers should also know that Grant didn’t always act as Ross Ulbricht’s lawyer.
He only took over the case from Joshua Dratel, Ross Ulbricht’s previous lawyer, in just June of last year.
This was also the time when the appellate court did not budge and upheld its decision.
The appellate court had back then had upheld Ross Ulbricht’s conviction.
It also awarded Ross Ulbricht double life sentence.
Judge Forrest recently wrote that the court DENIED the motion (from Ulbricht’s lawyers) to extend the time for a Rule 33 motion.
The District Judge also wrote that Ross’s lawyers did not understand how Rule 33 motion worked.
In other words, Rule 33 motion did not provide the opportunity for anyone to relitigate a matter that the court had already litigate one.
One can also not use the Rule 33 motion to initiate a fishing expedition to gather new evidence on the case.
Furthermore, Judge Forrest wrote that the court appreciated that Paul Grant, Ulbricht’s current lawyer, had no involvement in the trial before.
But, the current transcript clearly reveals that the “new” evidence Ross Ulbricht’s lawyer Paul Grant is trying to point towards right now was explicitly known at that time as well (the trial’s time).
Paul Grant has consistently tried to point to the court that the FBI had monitored the defendant’s web history and online movements.
No one needs to explain how or why did Ross Ulbricht end up in prison for the rest of his life.
It is rather clear to anyone who has followed the case for any good length of time.
Here is how the US law works.
Under normal circumstances, the courts allow a three-year clock from the actual time the court records the conviction during which the defendant can present new evidence to the court.
In the case of Ross Ulbricht, the US court recorded the conviction on February 4, 2015.
In another filing dated February 5, 2018, Paul Grant had asked the related court for an extension.
Because Paul hadn’t finished waiting for related prosecutors to show up and send him all the necessary files that pertained to his client’s, Ross Ulbricht, case.
The attorney also expressed that he expected the prosecutors to send him these files years ago.
And that was the reason why he asked the court for an extension.
Regardless of the excuse, District Judge Forrest denied Ross Ulbricht’s Lawyer, Grant, his request.
And the judge did so on the same day as the lawyer submitted his request.
It is another matter though that the defendant can appeal against the ruling.
Paul Grant has actually vowed that he would appeal against the decision of the District Judge.
Asking for an extension is one thing, but it seems like Paul Grant greater ambitions.
He actually attempted to re-open the case against his client Ross Ulbricht right at the district court level.
And while Paul Grant is busy doing that, another set of lawyers are simultaneously trying to work hard on behalf of their client, Ross Ulbricht, to try and convince the United States Supreme Court to move forward and take up Ross’ case.
Ross Ulbricht’s attorneys who are representing him at the moment also filed their cert petition to the United States’ high court.
They did so last year in late December.
As a result of their cert petition, the federal prosecutors have a due date to submit their official and formal response.
The cutoff date for that is early March this year.
Ulbricht’s lawyers have done well to get this far.
And now the federal prosecutors will have to come up with the response to Ross Ulbricht’s petition which his lawyers have submitted to the nation’s Supreme Court.
So when will the judge hear the case?
No one knows the answer to that question.
But it is likely that once the federal Justices have taken their time and have completed the paperwork regarding both parties involved in the case, they will announce whether or not they are ready to hear Ulbricht’s case.
The US And Its “Unjust Legal System”
So far the appeals court has continued to hold the position that Ross Ulbricht will have to serve out a life sentence for taking part in the creation of the Silk Road.
But enough about Ross Ulbricht already.
Let’s talk about the most important person in this right now.
Paul Grant happens to have his own website.
Readers can access it here.
Through his website, Grant doesn’t waste any time in taking the opportunity to describe himself as a different kind of lawyer.
In his own words, he is a First Amendment, Libertarian criminal defense lawyer.
During the 1980s Paul Grant managed to serve as the official national chair of the political party we all know as the Libertarian Party.
He held the position for a period of two years.
Paul Grant also mentions that he isn’t actually practicing law as a full-time profession now.
Because, according to Paul, doing so would mean he would have to earn his living while giving credibility to and working in a system that is essentially unjust.
Furthermore, he mentions that while he doesn’t really believe in the system, he still has the will to take on some cases.
These are defense cases that belong to a few special clients.
Clients who are facing challenging and serious problems and hence require a dedicated team of lawyers.
Paul also mentions that despite all the odds he still manages to help such clients.
According to Paul Grant his client, Ross Ulbricht, qualifies specifically for an entitlement.
That entitlement is to see the PRTT, or Pen Register Trap and Trace, applications.
Prosecutors involved in the case filed these back in the year 2013.
What did these applications do?
These applications basically targeted Ross Ulbricht throughout the course of the initial investigation.
Ross Ulbricht’s lawyer, Paul Grant, now holds the belief that these investigative files could contain information that could help his client’s case.
Information such as the kind of internet traffic that traversed through Ross Ulbricht’s internet router during the time law enforcement agencies had him under investigation.
Paul Grant has also claimed that the government actually promised to hand over the records to Ross Ulbricht quite a few years ago.
So what happened then?
According to Paul Grant, the government never followed up on that promise.
Paul Grant also wrote a letter to District Judge Forrest.
In the letter, he specifically mentioned that the United States government had never managed to produce the collected data in conformance with the agreement on four of the give mentioned pen-trap legal orders.
He also mentioned that despite that, the government argued before the trial that as a policy it went against the suppression of evidence that it obtained from those pen registers.
The government did have its own representatives to handle the case.
But Paul Grant still contends that the situation was unclear regarding what each of the previously-mentioned pen registers did not and did collect.
Paul then goes on to mention in the letter that if the US government did not have the necessary data, then the arguments that it based on the prior knowledge of any government’s attorney were actually made in really bad faith.
Additionally, he wrote, that if the US government did have enough data but decided to not produce it in front of the court upon request and the misrepresented what the data contained in its argument to the respected court, then that presented all parties with a serious problem.
According to Paul, if the United States government indeed had the data and decide to not produce it, then that action alone would represent a serious crime as it constituted a discovery violation.
With that said, it is still true that even Paul Grant isn’t entirely sure what information, if any, would the undisclosed data unearth which would help his client, Ross Ulbricht.
But the thing is, there is actually gigabytes of investigative data.
And hence, there is always a chance that it might contain something which could help Ross Ulbricht escape his two life sentences.
Regardless, Paul Grant’s point remains the same:
The government should have provided Ross Ulbricht with that data many years ago.
While talking to Ars Technica representatives, Paul Grant said that the data was still in main but he did not have the data as of yet.
He also noted that the FBI and United States Attorney’s Office still did not have the data.
And that both still had their staff making attempts to locate those Ulbricht files somewhere in their massive archives.
It is because of this reason that Paul Grant also argued that the court should give him extra time so that he may examine the data.
And the information that the data contains in all those files.
Paul Grant is of the opinion that this action is particularly important now since the prosecutors have not objected to it at all.
Grant also added that he did not look at his latest attempt to reverse the court’s decision on his client as “fishing”.
He said that he actually wanted to save the young man’s life.
When Ars Technica representatives request the New York-based federal prosecutor’s office for a comment, their spokeswoman declined.
Grant has a couple of more problems apart from the pen register trap and trace trove.
He has also claimed that he still has not managed to receive the whole formal case file.
Apparently, Dratel, Ulbricht’s previous attorney has not given all the information to Grant as well.
Grant told Ars Technica that he learned very recently that they did have a file cabinet of relevant materials that they never bothered to turn over to him.
Further, he added that because of that fact he did not know what he has and hasn’t looked at before.
When Ars Technica representatives approached Dratel for a comment he too did not respond.
Paul Grant had a couple of other arguments.
One of them involved a 2017 book.
The author of the book based the book on the entire Ross Ulbricht Saga.
The title of the book went something like “American Kingpin”.
The author based the book on several interviews of agents who worked in the federal government and had an involvement in the whole Ulbricht case.
The book, American Kingpin, described Wifi monitoring along with many other types of surveillance techniques.
Some of them were even physical ones.
All of these techniques and technologies allowed the federal government agents to pinpoint their target’s, Ross Ulbricht, precise physical location.
The book makes a mention of all these activities and mentions that all of these took place prior to Ross Ulbricht’s eventual arrest.
Turning to Page 331 of American Kingpin, the author, Nick Bilton, mentioned that Chris Tarbell, an FBI agent, performed a specific type of surveillance.
This agent also took care of previously-mentioned Pen Register Trap And Trace application.
The book also tells that this application eventually authorized all the surveillance that the federal government agents carried out on Ross Ulbricht.
Tarbell’s activities along with the Pen Register Trap and Trace application basically formed the basis for the federal government agent’s affidavit in order to search Ross Ulbricht’s laptop.
Grant mentioned that he had a good reason to believe that the federal government agent’s affidavit contained false statements.
However, since Grant hasn’t seen those documents himself, he can’t say that for sure.
The Uphill Battle
To make more sense of District Judge Forest’s ruling, Ars Technica decided to contact various legal experts.
Ars Technica representatives wanted to see how they viewed the whole case.
According to Ars Technica, all the legal experts that they consulted agreed that Rule 33 Motion indeed required a pretty high bar for clearance.
And at this moment in time, according to these legal experts, it seemed that Paul Grant did not have enough of a case to have cleared that requirement.
A law professor at the George Washington University, Stephen Saltzburg, recently mentioned that the legal community considered Dratel as a veteran criminal defense lawyer.
Hence, in all likelihood, he did not miss something that major.
Stephen Saltzburg also mentioned that now they had come to a situation where they had a new lawyer taking up the case, coming in and saying that the federal government possibly did not produce something important.
Something which could possibly have a lot of relevance to any defense.
He also told Ars Technica reporters that he did not think there was any newly discovered evidence.
Even if there was, this wasn’t that.
Stephen Saltzburg also mentioned that he found nothing surprising about the district Judge’s recent ruling.
Salzburg has previously worked the Department of Justice, in the organization’s Criminal Division as a deputy assistant attorney general.
Daniel Richman, who has worked as an advisor to James Comey (the ex-FBI director) and as a federal prosecutor, noted that he had no problems with the district judge’s ruling.
In fact, he agreed with the ruling.