Share Button

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/100239928@N08/

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/100239928@N08/

The case against alleged Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht is already causing a serious rethinking of what existing statutes mean in the age of cryptocurrency. While there is little doubt that the Silk Road was a haven for recreational drug sales and other decidedly illegal services, there are still many open questions about how existing laws apply to the online marketplace, what charges could fairly be leveled at the site’s admin, “Dread Pirate Roberts,” and even if some of the crimes the FBI alleges Roberts/Ulbricht actually happened. Last week, Ulbricht’s lawyers added another wrinkle to the story: They claim that the FBI’s initial search was unconstitutional, and that all the evidence it unearthed is inadmissible.

Ulbricht’s attorneys filed a pre-trial motion to this effect on Friday, claiming that the FBI violated his Fourth Amendment rights against warrantless searches. This claim has been used in other cases to apply to searches of digital property, including the recent Supreme Court case of Riley vs. California, where the court ruled that the warrantless search of a cellphone is illegal due to the wealth of private data the devices contain. In the Silk Road case, the situation is further complicated by the FBI’s possibly illegal search of Tor servers in Iceland, where the Silk Road was hosted.

In a summary of the motion itself, Wired explains:

The [electronically stored information] and other material seized and searched has been contaminated at its source, and at several later points along the way, rendering the direct and indirect product of those searches and seizures – in essence, the entire product of the investigation itself – inadmissible,” a 102-page memo accompanying the motion summarizes. “Thus, the Fourth Amendment and relevant statutes require suppression of the fruits of the searches and seizures, and any evidence or other information derived therefrom.”

The motion also asks the court to prevent the prosecution from calling Ulbricht a “murderer” in their filings, noting that although there is a charge in a Maryland case claiming that Ulbricht attempted to pay for the murders of six people, no such charge exists in the current case. The murder-for-hire claims are “unduly prejudicial” for Ulbricht, his team claims. The FBI admitted last November that no murders had ever actually taken place.

Share Button