On October 6, 2016, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will hear oral arguments in the biggest hacking case of the century, United States v.Ulbricht. Ross William Ulbricht is appealing the life sentence he is currently serving after a jury convicted himon seven charges, including money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics, conspiracy to traffic fraudulent identity documents, and procuring murder.
Ulbricht, also known by his alias, the Dread Pirate Roberts, is the former ringleader of the now defunct Silk Road. One of the most notorious black markets on the internet, Silk Road was considered the first modern Dark Web market that catered to anonymous users looking to purchase and sell illegal drugs and other illicit items. The FBI shut down the site and arrested Ulbricht in October of 2013. Ulbricht’s jury trial concluded in February of 2015.
In January of 2016, Ulbricht’s defense attorneys filed a 170-page appeal brief, arguing that the lower court erroneously suppressed evidence of two agents’ corruption in their investigation of Ulbricht and the court abused its discretion by not allowing certain evidence and testimony at trial. The defense’s brief primarily focused on the alleged the misconduct of the agents, which they claim was hidden from them until after trial. The alleged misconduct included stealing bitcoins from the Silk Road site, attempting to extort money from Ulbricht, and attempting to sell Ulbricht law enforcement information pursuant to the ongoing investigation. The two agents were subsequently charged for their criminal actions during the investigation and both pleaded guilty. Each is serving an approximately six-year sentence.
The prosecution filed its own 186-page reply brief, which also focused on the misconduct by the two agents. The prosecution argued, among other things, the agents’ misconduct during the investigation is irrelevant to a determination of Ulbricht’s guilt, and that Ulbricht’s desire to purchase law enforcement information pursuant to the investigation from one of the agents was an even more compelling demonstration of his guilt.
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