Joshua Dratel, lawyer for convicted Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, today sent a discovery demand to the attorney general's office in Maryland, where a dormant but not fully dead separate prosecution of Ulbricht exists.
As explained in a press conference today in New York (which I listened to over the phone), Dratel and his team have learned, after Ulbricht's conviction and life sentence for various crimes associated with founding and operating the darkweb sales site Silk Road, that another federal agent involved in the investigation against the site's pseudonymous operator "Dread Pirate Roberts" (who the feds insist was, and always was, Ulbricht) was committing crimes of his own, including getting "DPR" to pay him for ongoing inside information from the investigation against him.
Dratel and his team want to know what the government knows about this mystery man known as "notwonderful" and "albertpacino" on Silk Road's forum and sales servers. As Dratel said in today's press conference, the prosecution has an ongoing legal obligation to share exculpatory evidence as the appeals process continues.
Some documentary evidence on the payoffs from "DPR" to "albertpacino," which indicated the government at one time thought "albertpacino" might be an alias for already-known corrupt investigator Carl Force of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Dratel says he is confident "albertpacino/notwonderful" is neither Force nor the other known corrupt investigator, Shaun Bridge of the Secret Service.
Two things leap out from what Dratel does now know, as he sees it: one, that the version of the Silk Road forum server imaged and used as evidence in the prosecution had the record of DPR's correspondence with this mystery agent "albertpacino/notwonderful" wiped.
This, Dratel says, casts severe doubt on the integrity of the digital trail of evidence against Ulbricht.
Second, while Dratel and his team have most of that wiped correspondence now at their disposal, what they have stops on August 15, 2013, about six weeks before Ulbricht was arrested.
The missing weeks may well indicate that a theory Dratel wants the court to consider more seriously might be true: that the "DPR" who "notwonderful" was telling tales to and being paid off by may have had time to disappear and frame Ulbricht in those last weeks.
A written statement from Lindsay Lewis in Dratel's office sums up what they think is important about this to Ulbricht's ongoing appeal:
The deletion of the Silk Road forum database communications between DPR and "notwonderful," who also operated on Silk Road under the name "albertpacino," and evidence that "notwonderful" sold DPR information about the federal law enforcement investigation of SR and DPR and was paid regularly for updates regarding the progress of the investigation, is significant because it confirms further tampering with the Silk Road investigation and the evidence in Ross Ulbricht's case, that is distinct from SA Force and SA Bridges' corruption.
This revelation definitively establishes that the digital evidence in Ross's case lacks integrity. In addition, since even the backup copy of the Silk Road forum database that was manually created by a Silk Road user with administrative privileges named "s," is incomplete in that it preserves communications through August 15, 2013, the date that copy was created, we still do not know what else DPR learned about the Silk Road investigation from "notwonderful" and the contents of their communications in those crucial six week between August 15, 2013, and October 1, 2013, when Ross Ulbricht was arrested. The defense at trial was that DPR conceived and executed an exit strategy to frame Ross Ulbricht and those six weeks are therefore critical.
Dratel explained in today's press conference that their request letter may lead to an eventual motion to compel discovery on these matters, and could conceivably lead to an eventual new trial motion.
See the latest, from October, on Ulbricht's ongoing appeal process.
Background on the criminality of Silk Road investigators Carl Force of the DEA and Shaun Bridges of the Secret Service.
There is a webathon raising money for Ulbricht's defense happening this Sunday, more details at FreeRoss.org.