New evidence suggests further corruption in the investigation of online black market Silk Road. Lawyers representing the site’s jailed founder Ross Ulbricht said today they have identified a third rogue government agent who offered insider information in return for payment.
Revelation Will Not Free Ross Ulbricht
DEA agent Carl Mark Force and Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges were both jailed for stealing bitcoins and other abuses of power in their separate investigations of the case. Evidence of a third corrupt investigator would add more fuel to the Ulbricht defense team’s claim that their client was convicted on unreliable evidence.
However even proof of a third corrupt agent will not directly help Ulbricht. New evidence is inadmissible in his New York case appeal.
Speaking at a press conference, Ulbricht’s lawyers revealed a previously-unidentified character in Silk Road’s chat logs. The figure went by the names “albertpacino”, “alpacino” and “notwonderful” and offered to sell inside information on law enforcement operations.
They also claimed someone in law enforcement may even have deleted these messages from previous chat logs both sides viewed during the trial.
In a WIRED report, Ulbricht attorney Lindsay Lewis challenged the integrity of the government’s Silk Road investigation. Discovering yet more improper behavior on investigators’ part would only damage this further, he said.
“We find this to be a significant discovery, considering that we’ve always believed that there was other corruption that we didn’t know about and the government didn’t know about either.”
Did Someone Tamper With Evidence?
The defense team discovered the new messages themselves, in a backup of a directory separate to the logs used in the trial. They have now filed a demand for the government to release any and all information it has on the alpacino pseudonym.
Though already convicted and sentenced to life in prison, Ulbricht still faces further charges in Maryland and will probably be tried again. Although judges in his New York appeal are prohibited from viewing any new evidence, his defense is submitting it in the Maryland case.
Proof of tampering with evidence could draw new attention to Ulbricht’s predicament overall, though. Alpacino’s messages were missing from four separate chat logs from 2013, and exist only in an obscure copy apparently made by a Silk Road staffer.
The alpacino and related pseudonyms also exist in earlier versions of the chat logs, though observers assumed they belonged to Force. The initial filing against Force listed the name as belonging to him, though it was deleted from his later complaint and indictment.
Ulbricht’s lead attorney Joshua Dratel intimated someone had deliberately removed the messages from the logs. There are also other clues they may be from someone other than Force, e.g.: the payment demands were noticeably smaller.
The new logs are unfortunately not yet available for public viewing, under Maryland law.
Was Ross Ulbricht convicted on unreliable evidence? Do you think the defense team has found something entirely new? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via FreeRoss.org, Twitter