Robert K. Hur, United States Attorney from the Maryland district, filed a motion on July 20, 2018 to dismiss a 2013 three-count indictment against Ross Ulbricht which included murder-for-hire allegations. Mr. Ulbricht, 34, was prosecuted under a separate indictment out of the New York district as Dread Pirate Roberts, principal operator of underground online marketplace Silk Road. Many legal analysts concluded that the looming Maryland indictment prejudiced law enforcement in at least advocating aggressive sentencing in Mr. Ulbricht’s case. He is serving multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.
US Attorney Hur Files Motion to Dismiss 2013 Murder-for-Hire Indictment Against Ross Ulbricht
“Pursuant to Rule 48(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure,” a recently released court document titled, Motion to Dismiss Indictment and Superseding Indictment, explained, “and by leave of Court endorsed hereon the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland hereby moves to dismiss with prejudice the Indictment and Superseding Indictment pending against the defendant in the above-captioned case.”
In a statement to News.Bitcoin.com, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur explained his reasoning, “Mr. Ulbricht’s conviction and life sentence in the case handled by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York have been affirmed BY the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and the Supreme Court has declined to hear the case. We have dismissed the federal charges based on the same conduct pending against Mr. Ulbricht in Maryland, which allows us to direct our resources to other cases where justice has not yet been served.”
Phone calls to the Maryland US Attorney’s office were answered by Public Affairs Specialist Marcia Murphy, a nearly two decades veteran, working in one form or another in a US Attorney’s office. Though familiar with Mr. Ulbricht’s high profile prosecution in the Southern District of New York, she mentioned being unaware US Attorney Hur had filed a motion to dismiss the 2013 indictment.
Asked flatly if the motion meant anything relevant to Mr. Ulbricht’s ultimate guilt or innocence, she preferred not to comment. Specialist Murphy did, however, stipulate Mr. Ulbricht’s having already been convicted, and how there was “nothing to be found” by keeping open the 2013, twelve-page indictment brought against him by then-US Attorney Rod Rosenstein (now United States Deputy Attorney General, appointed by President Trump in 2017).
She used phrasing such as “district overlap,” almost making the motion to dismiss more of a formality rather than exoneration. Asked also if the motion could be typical administrivia, an effort to clear legal calendars rather than a legally significant filing, Specialist Murphy told news.Bitcoin.com, “You wouldn’t be wrong.”
Still, Mr. Ulbricht seemed most obviously relieved, tweeting, “Just found out the govt moved to drop the case against me in Maryland. What a huge weight off my shoulders that will be.” He is currently in a Colorado federal prison, serving a life sentence without parole. His Twitter account is maintained by family and supporters.
Though the Maryland indictment was sealed previously and separate from the indictment for which Mr. Ulbricht was found guilty, media stories with headlines touting murder-for-hire were considered prejudicial at the very least. Mr. Ulbricht was convicted on a range of charges, from various cyber crimes to drug trafficking and money laundering.
His conviction and sentencing were appealed, ending at a recent Supreme Court decision to uphold lower courts’ findings, all of which were unfavorable to Mr. Ulbricht. Of particular concern was the life sentence, and his legal team argued it was the Maryland indictment, never formally acted upon, that caused the judge to hand down such a heavy punishment.
More recently, supporters at FreeRoss.org mounted a Presidential Pardon petition on Change.org. At time of publication, the petition had close to 35,000 signatures.
Will the President pardon Ross? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images via Pixabay, Twitter.