A judge has declared ‘moot’ Ross Ulbricht’s latest attempt to have his multiple life sentences voided/overruled lawyer Paul Grant failed to file papers withdrawing self as Ulbricht’s counsel.
Ulbricht is seeking to have his sentences vacated and is alleging that original defense lawyer Joshua Drathel gave incompetent counsel.
Ulbricht founded and administered the Silk Road website from 2011 and 2013, when he was arrested. The site was a popular Dark Net marketplace for the vending of drugs, weapons and other illicit products, though site administrators have claimed that the site enforced a “no harm” policy.
Products were typically purchased on the site using bitcoins.
During the Ulbricht trial, Presiding Judge Katherine Forrest was “doxed” and received death threats.
Investigators and journalists have claimed that, during the course of running the site, Ulbricht, who used the screen name, “Dread Pirate Roberts,” attempted to deal with conflicts and thefts by arranging the assassination of his adversaries by contracting the services of hitmen.
Homicide charges were never leveled against Ulbricht, however.
Ulbricht was nonetheless convicted and sentenced to serve two concurrent life sentences without the possibility of parole for hacking, money laundering, criminal enterprise and drug trafficking.
In June, Ulbricht submitted a declaration in New York in which he claimed lawyer Joshua Dratel advised him badly about his prospects of winning at trial if he plead not guilty:
“Trial counsel recommended I reject the government’s offer because the sentencing exposure was too great, there was nothing to be gained by pleading guilty, and nothing to lose by going to trial…Trial counsel never told me that 97% of all federal defendants plead guilty because most defense attorneys…typically consider going to trial too risky and…likely to result in a harsher sentence (the “trial penalty”) if the defendant is convicted…I was not told that in 2012 and 2013…90% of those who went to trial were convicted at trial…I was not informed that fewer than 1% of federal criminal defendants in the United States were found not guilty in 2012 or 2013.”
Ulbricht also claims that his lawyer tacitly admitted his guilt without his express permission:
“Later on in the trial, Mr. Dratel told me he was going to stipulate to the admissibility of government evidence regarding drugs purchased on the Silk Road…Trial counsel assured me that these stipulations were consistent with defending me against the charges. I did not realize that trial counsel’s stipulations and admission of my role were concessions of my guilt. I expected him to challenge the government’s evidence and the credibility and knowledge of its witnesses.”
Ulbricht also claimed his lawyer threatened at the 11th hour to abandon the case if he testified in his own defence:
“Near the end of the prosecutor’s case, I met with Mr. Dratel in a holding cell just outside the trial courtroom. At that time, I informed Mr. Dratel that I had decided to testify. He was quite disturbed with my decision and he told me he would withdraw as my counsel if I insisted on testifying…”
“I regret to this day that I did not get the chance it testify…it would have allowed me to explain many things to the jury(,) many things which were misrepresented by the government or which were not made clear at my trial, and to correct their misrepresentation of who I am,” Ulbricht writes.
Ulbricht’s team has been ordered to file a new motion to vacate the sentence by September 27, 2019.