Supreme Court Refuses to Review Ross Ulbricht’s Case

In December of last year, the attorneys for Ross Ulbricht, the convicted creator of the original Silk Road darknet, had asked the Supreme Court of the United States to review Ulbricht’s case in a petition for a writ of certiorari they filed with the high court. But prior to the end of the Supreme Court’s term for this year, the court denied Ulbricht’s petition and refused to hear the case. Ulbricht’s legal team was challenging the conviction and double life sentence given to Ulbricht on the grounds that Ulbricht’s rights protected by the 4th amendment and 6th amendment of the United States Constitution.

In a ruling made last year, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York had upheld Ulbricht’s conviction and sentence. Ulbricht’s legal team appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, but a higher court had decided to postpone making a decision on the petition for a writ of certiorari in Ulbricht’s case only after they issued their opinion in the case of Carpenter v. United States. Ulbricht’s case was not the only case the high court had held off making a decision on pending the ruling in the Carpenter case. As with Ulbricht’s case, in the case of Caira v. United States, the Supreme Court postponed making a decision on whether or not to review the case until the Carpenter case was decided, and that petition for review was also ultimately denied.

A landmark decision relating to the 4th amendment and digital privacy rights was issued by the Supreme Court in the Carpenter case. Ross Ulbricht’s legal team, along with many other people, had believed that the Supreme Court was likely to review Ulbricht’s case given the outcome of the Carpenter case. They believed the decision in the Carpenter case had huge implications for Ulbricht’s case. A supplemental brief had been filed by Ulbricht’s legal team with the Supreme Court after a ruling was issued on the Carpenter case. “The Court expressly rejected the government’s ‘primary contention’ that the third party doctrine adopted by the Court in the context of telephone calls in Smith v. Maryland … should be applied to new categories of information made available by ‘seismic shifts in digital technology,’” Ulbricht’s attorneys argued in the supplemental brief filed with the court after the Carpenter case had been decided.

A group of 20 organizations had filed amicus curiae briefs, also known as friend of the court briefs, in support of Ulbricht’s appeal. After learning of the court’s refusal to hear Ulbricht’s appeal, the Free Ross Twitter account tweeted the news, saying, “SCOTUS denied #RossUlbricht cert petition this morning after holding it pending Carpenter. This is a NO on internet privacy and Ross’s case. Devastating. #freeross.”

“The court is only addressing cell phone tracking and leaving intact the warrantless surveillance of internet activity and using uncharged crimes in sentencing,” a comment made by the Free Ross Facebook account said in a comment on one of their posts.

The Supreme Court’s decision was not the only loss in court for Ulbricht this year, earlier this year in February, Judge Katherine Forrest, the same judge who presided over Ulbricht’s trial, denied a motion filed by Ulbricht’s attorneys which requested an extension to the standard 3 year time period for filing a Rule 33 motion for a new trial. Now that the Supreme Court has denied Ulbricht’s petition to have his case reviewed, it is not known what Ulbricht’s legal team and supporters plan to do next to try and free the man once known as the Dread Pirate Roberts. It is possible that Ulbricht’s legal team could try and appeal to the Supreme Court on other grounds besides the 4th amendment and 6th amendment issues argued in the recently denied petition. Some supporters are hoping to gain attention to Ulbricht’s case and will try to push for Ulbricht to be pardoned or have his sentence commuted by President Donald Trump. The Free Ross Facebook page said in a comment to one of their posts that they were planning to create a petition to the White House in the near future.