Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How Bad Do Things Look for Ross Ulbricht?

If journalist Nicholas Weaver's account is accurate, and it appears it is, then Ross is in very serious trouble.

It seems the only remaining question is the one posed by Weaver:
 Did Ulbricht’s lawyer believe the defendant, or did he cynically want to keep getting paid?
Weaver outlines three possibilities:
The first possibility is that Dratel believed his client. If so, you’d want to preserve his ability to testify. Yet the defense had the server and laptop for months, complete with both the infamous diary and Ulbricht’s admitted stash of Bitcoins. It was a simple matter for me, with just public information and a couple hours of coding, to trace 20% of Ulbricht’s stash as coming directly from Silk Road. It turns out that the wallet.dat files were able to trace many more. To my mind, a defense attorney simply believing a client’s falsifiable statements, without at least checking, seems incompetent.

So the defense should have known that putting Ulbricht on the stand would be absolute suicide: the prosecution would start with “So why were you holding the Dread Pirate’s Bitcoins?” and the day would get worse from there.

The second, and most likely, possibility was that Ulbricht was simply a difficult client. Every lawyer can tell stories of clients who, after receiving sound advice, simply refuse to listen.

The final, and cynical option is that Dratel simply wants to keep getting paid. Ulbricht’s defense is largely funded by donations. Although Roger Ver initially contributed a substantial amount, most subsequent donations have been relatively small. Although a declaration couldn’t be used in court, it would have convicted Ulbricht in the court of public opinion. How many would give money to Ulbricht’s defense if Ulbricht admitted he was the Dread Pirate Roberts?
Weaver's full analysis is here.

Ulricht faces a mandatory minimum 20-year prison sentence on the strongest charge against him for running a continuing criminal enterprise.


1 comment:

  1. Ever heard of Attorney/Client confidentiality? In other words, it doesn't matter if his lawyer "believes" him, Ulbricht can tell his lawyer that he is DPR, and the lawyer will still defend him in court as if he isn't. The question is whether he is "believable" to a jury.

    But most likely, the lawyer doesn't want to put Ulbricht on the stand because then the prosecution can cross-examine with a lot of questions that they cannot ask another witness. It's a strategic move and probably doesn't have anything to do with whether the lawyer "believes" Ulbricht or not.