A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the conviction and life sentence of Ross Ulbricht, the accused mastermind behind the Silk Road online black market for illegal drugs.
By a 3-0 vote, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York rejected Ulbricht's claims that his trial judge deprived him of a fair trial, in part by preventing him from introducing evidence of "corrupt" activity by two federal agents.
It also rejected Ulbricht's claim that the sentence was too long, citing the "staggering" $183 million of illegal drugs sold on Silk Road from 2011 to 2013, and a lower court's finding it more likely than not that Ulbricht arranged at least five attempted murders for hire to protect Silk Road's anonymity.
"That he was able to distance himself from the actual violence he paid for by using a computer to order the killings is not mitigating," Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch wrote in a 139-page decision. "Indeed, the cruelty that he displayed in his casual and confident negotiations for the hits is unnerving."
Joshua Dratel, a lawyer for Ulbricht, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim declined to comment.
Jurors had in February 2015 found Ulbricht, 33, guilty of narcotics and other charges for helping to enable online drug sales using the virtual currency bitcoin.
Prosecutors said Ulbricht ran Silk Road under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts before the website was shut down in October 2013. Ulbricht has admitted to creating Silk Road but rejected suggestions that he operated it.
The case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 15-1815.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)