Tag Archives: trial

Military Judge Denies New Lawyer for 9/11 Suspect as Trial Delays Continue

Following days of back and forth arguments, Judge Army Col. James Pohl ruled on Thursday that a Yemeni man accused of helping orchestrate the 9/11 attacks cannot fire his attorney.

“You have not shown good cause and as a result I will not terminate Ms. Bormann’s relationship with you,” Pohl said at a hearing at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The ruling comes after a closed-door session was held on Wednesday between defendant Walid bin Attash, his lawyers, and Pohl to discuss the possibility of the man defending himself in court.

Bin Attash faces charges related to hijacking, terrorism, war crimes and conspiring with militants for his role in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The trial of bin Attash and four other men accused of the attacks have long been delayed due to accusations of the government spying on the defense team.

On Monday, bin Attash stated that he felt he could no longer trust his defense team and wanted to fire his lead defense attorney Cheryl Bormann. He also told Pohl he had privileged information to share. The Military Times reports that Pohl told bin Attash to let go of the idea of representing himself. “It’s a bad idea … you conflated three separate issues,” he said.

According to the Miami Herald, on Wednesday Bin Attash submitted two documents which detail his reasons for wanting to remove Bormann. The documents were not made public. Judge Pohl might rule on the matter as early as Thursday.

At Monday’s hearing Pohl also ruled on a dispute which has plagued the entire trial. The defense team has accused the government of using informants to attempt to gain information on the defense strategy. However, Pohl ruled there was no conflict or potential conflict during the tribunal.

The Military Times reported that U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez told the government that there was “no conflict of interest” to investigate and called the accusations of planted informants “a red herring.”

The conflict of interest first became an issue in 2014 when the defense attorneys for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four alleged co-conspirators said they believed they were being spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Foreign Policy reported, “the FBI had secretly conducted an investigation into possible wrongdoing on the part of one or more members of the five separate defense teams (one for each defendant). Such an investigation could put defense team members in the untenable position of having to provide information to defend themselves or others against possible criminal action — information that could be used against the interests of their own clients.” 

There was also the issue of interference from outside sources during the hearings. FP continues:

 “In January 2013, the court’s audio-visual feed, visible to a small set of commission observers, was abruptly cut off by someone other than Judge Pohl; previously, Pohl was believed to be the only person with the authority to use the unique-to-Guantanamo ‘kill-switch.’ Later, a clearly annoyed Pohl learned that something called the Original Classification Authority (OCA) — which is likely the CIA given that most of the information subject to censorship in the case is related to the agency’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program — had hit the kill switch. Judge Pohl promptly cut off their privileges.

In February 2013, it was revealed that listening devices were hidden within smoke detectors, possibly infringing upon attorney-client privileges. The defense also claimed their emails and work files were disappearing. Former defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh was also removed from the trial by the judge in an attempt to speed the process along after so many delays. However, critics argue that al-Shibh was removed because he refused to be quiet, complaining loudly of sleep deprivation.

The trial of the men accused of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 has been nothing short of a sham. No justice will be found in this military kangaroo court. Regardless of the crime they stand accused of, these men are owed their day in a court of impartial judges. Unfortunately, the last 14 years of controversies have shown that these men will not receive anything closely resembling a fair and speedy trial owed to them by the 6th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Trial for Accused 9/11 Terrorists Delayed Once More

As we near the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the five men accused of being the “masterminds” still have not been granted a speedy trial. After several years of delays, the trial was once again set back last week as the U.S. military canceled another pretrial hearing.

Reuters reports that a spokesman for the Department of Defense said the hearing scheduled for August 24 through Sept. 4 was canceled by James Pohl, an Army colonel and judge for the trial.

“The judge cited issues that remain unresolved with regard to a claimed defense counsel conflict of interest,” said Commander Gary Ross.

The conflict of interest first became an issue in 2014 when the defense attorneys for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four alleged co-conspirators said they believed they were being spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Foreign Policy reported, “the FBI had secretly conducted an investigation into possible wrongdoing on the part of one or more members of the five separate defense teams (one for each defendant). Such an investigation could put defense team members in the untenable position of having to provide information to defend themselves or others against possible criminal action — information that could be used against the interests of their own clients.” 

There was also the issue of interference from outside sources during the hearings. FP continues:

 “In January 2013, the court’s audio-visual feed, visible to a small set of commission observers, was abruptly cut off by someone other than Judge Pohl; previously, Pohl was believed to be the only person with the authority to use the unique-to-Guantanamo “kill-switch.” Later, a clearly annoyed Pohl learned that something called the Original Classification Authority (OCA) — which is likely the CIA given that most of the information subject to censorship in the case is related to the agency’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program — had hit the kill switch. Judge Pohl promptly cut off their privileges.

In February 2013 it was revealed that listening devices were hidden within smoke detectors, possibly infringing upon attorney-client privileges. The defense also claimed their emails and work files were disappearing. Former defendant Ramzi Bin al-Shibh was also removed from the trial by the judge in an attempt to speed the process along after so many delays. However, critics argue that al-Shibh was removed because he refused to be quiet, complaining loudly of sleep deprivation.

Maj. Jason Wright was a veteran of the military since 2005, serving 15 months in Iraq and was working as a Judge Advocate. He was extremely critical of the government and their efforts to slow or hinder the trial. “All six of these men have been tortured by the U.S. government,” Wright told NPR.

The slow progress of the trial corresponds with a report by the Telegraph in 2012, which stated that the trial would likely not begin for another four years in 2016. When ever the trial finally does get underway the public will not know much about what these men have to say because the proceedings will not be televised or publicly available. In 2012, Al-Jazeera reported, “The government has produced a protective order to make everything the defendants say presumptively classified, pending completion of a classification review.”

The five men have been held since 2002 and 2003. They face the death penalty if found guilty in the planning of the September 11 attacks. The attacks of that day took the lives of nearly 3,000 people. Since that time, a real investigation into not only these men, but the entire events of that day, has been stifled by the U.S. government.

If this nation wishes to reclaim the idea of a nation of justice and laws, these men must be given a proper trial. Once the truth about that day finally comes to light, then, and only then, will this country truly begin to heal from the wounds of September 11, 2001.

Silk Road ‘Mastermind’ Ross Ulbricht to be Sentenced Friday Afternoon

NEW YORK CITY – On Friday afternoon, convicted Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht will find out how many years he will spend in prison for his role in the Silk Road online marketplace. With federal mandatory minimum sentences, Ulbricht is facing at least 20 years in prison.

In February, the Silk Road trial concluded as the jury reached a verdict of guilty on seven charges related to distributing narcotics, fraudulent documents, money laundering, and continuing a criminal enterprise. The jury took just three hours to convict Ulbricht on all charges. Now, US District Judge Katherine Forrest will weigh the evidence and decide what length of sentence to give Ulbricht.

At least 97 friends and family members of Ulbricht have written to the judge asking for the most lenient sentence possible. (Ars Technica has posted the letters online along with the court filing of photos of Ulbricht and many family and friends.) Ulbricht himself wrote the judge asking her to give him 20 years so he might still have his old age. The 31-year old tech genius faces prison until at least his early 50’s.

Despite Ulbricht’s defense team continuing to argue that he was not the Dread Pirate Roberts mastermind, but instead was “left holding the bag”, Ulbricht told the judge: “Silk Road turned out to be a very naive and costly idea that I deeply regret.” This marks the first time the public is hearing from Ulbricht directly.

Ulbricht has received support from the Drug Policy Alliance’s nightlife community engagement manager Stefanie Jones. On the Drug Policy Alliance’s blog, Jones asks whether or not putting Ulbricht behind bars will accomplish anything. She says the Silk Road actually was a beneficial market for three reasons:

  • Silk Road reduced the potential violence associated with buying drugs.
  • It allowed for better knowledge about content and purity.
  • It encouraged harm reduction among users.

Will Judge Katherine Forrest take a similar view? Just ten days ago, she asked for a copy of the Silk Road website so she could perform searches for what products were available for sale. The government produced a fully functioning replica of the site from the server.

Although the charges Ulbricht was found guilty of in New York City do not include the controversial “murder-for-hire” charge, the accusation has still weighed heavily in this current trial. Ulbricht will eventually be tried on those charges in a Maryland court but that did not stop the government from mentioning chat logs that detail five murder-for-hire plots. Still, prosecutors filed no charges in New York, possibly indicating a lack of evidence.

Throughout the trial Ulbricht’s supporters, family, and defense team said they were being blocked at every turn. Witnesses were not allowed, evidence was removed from the record, and many believe the jury could not have possibly had a grip on the emerging technologies that played a large role in the trial- namely Bitcoin, the Tor Browser, and the Deep Web.

Another point of contention came in late March after two former federal agents were accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars during their investigation of the Silk Road. The two defendants are Carl Force, a former special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Shaun Bridges, a former Secret Service special agent. Force and Bridges were assigned to a task force based in Baltimore investigating Silk Road. Force was the lead investigator working undercover, and Bridges was a computer forensics expert working on the case.

According to a press release from the Justice Department, Force “served as an undercover agent and was tasked with establishing communications with a target of the investigation, Ross Ulbricht, aka ‘Dread Pirate Roberts.’” Force was authorized to communicate with Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) online to gather information, but he allegedly went on to create several unauthorized, fictitious online identities.

“The Government’s efforts to keep the Carl Force scandal out of the public eye at trial is in itself scandalous,” said Joshua Horowitz, a defense attorney for Ulbricht. “The recently filed Complaint which names Carl Force as a defendant demonstrates that the Government’s investigation of Mr. Ulbricht lacked integrity, and was wholly and fatally compromised from the inside.””

Whether any of the latest revelations will have any effect remains to be seen. The fate of Ross Ulbricht now lies in the hands of Judge Katherine Forrest. Will the effects of this trial have a chilling effect on the internet and stifle new innovation, as some believe?

Ross Ulbricht will be sentenced in New York City at 1:30 pm EST. Derrick Broze will be attending the sentencing and will appear on RT America this evening to discuss the outcome. For the latest updates follow Broze on Twitter @DBrozeLiveFree

The Silk Road Trial Continues After Dramatic Revelations

“Silk Road was founded on libertarian principles and continues to be operated on them. It is a great idea and a great practical system…It is not a utopia. It is regulated by market forces, not a central power (even I am subject to market forces by my competition. No one is forced to be here). The same principles that have allowed Silk Road to flourish can and do work anywhere human beings come together. The only difference is that the State is unable to get its thieving murderous mitts on it.”
Dread Pirate Roberts

New York City – On Tuesday the trial of Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht will continue in a federal courthouse in the Southern District of New York City.

Ulbricht is accused of trafficking drugs on the Internet, narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, computer-hacking conspiracy and money-laundering conspiracy for his role as the creator of the Silk Road and for allegedly being the man behind the online persona that ran the marketplace, Dread Pirate Roberts. In the first week of the trial the prosecution attempted to convince the jury that Ulbricht was DPR by showcasing exhibit after exhibit of drugs purchased by undercover officer with the Homeland Security Investigations.

The government claims that Ulbricht was running the administrative side of the website during these and other drug purchases and thus should be held responsible for the purchases. The government is claiming Ulbricht is responsible under something known as “transferred intent”.This doctrine will allow the government to attempt to convince the jury that Ulbricht is responsible for the activities of the website itself, whether or not he was directly involved. Ross’s mother Lyn Ulbricht has said that if the precedent is set during her son’s trial it could “put a chill on the internet.”

Indeed, if the governments arguments convince the jury that Ulbricht is guilty of the crimes by simply hosting them it could create a dangerous situation where website owners could be held responsible for users comments on a site, or for the products sold on ebay or craigslist.

As the IB Times wrote, “If found guilty he will go down as the first person in history to be convicted for the actions of the users of his website, rather than merely his own actions.”

The first week of the trial was not without controversy. At the end of day one, Judge Katherine Forrest warned the courtroom that if jury nullification activists were present outside the courtroom in the morning she would implement an “anonymous jury” that would be sequestered, and brought in through a “special location”. The Defense attorneys and Ulbricht family asked activists to discontinue the activities because they might do more harm than good. The fear is that if the jury is “anonymized” (a process usually reserved for high profile mafia and criminal kingpin cases) it may send the message that Ulbricht is dangerous or that the jurors are in danger.

Day two began with the prosecution continuing to question DHS agent and apparent Silk Road mole Jared Der-Yeghiayan. Lead prosecutor Serrin Turner presented several screenshots related to criminal activity on the Silk Road. He asked Deryeghiayan to explain each exhibit and how it related to illegal activity, including the purchase of illicit drugs and fraudulent documents.

While it has been demonstrated that drugs were in fact trafficked through the Silk Road, charges of conspiracy to traffic in hacking software and stolen passports have yet to be substantiated by the government. Even if the prosecution proves that drugs, fraudulent documents, and hacking software/services were in fact trafficked through Silk Road, they must still demonstrate that at the time of the alleged illegal activity, Ulbricht was acting as Dread Pirate Roberts, the Silk Road administrator.

In the late afternoon the prosecution questioned Der-Yeghiayan on the specifics of how the government arrested Ulbricht. Der-Yeghiayan said the DHS concocted a plan to get Ulbricht in a public place with internet to catch him chatting with the undercover agent as Dread Pirate Roberts. The government’s charges against Ulbricht depend on their ability to prove that Ulbricht was indeed Dread Pirate Roberts. To secure that evidence the arresting agents were instructed to pull the laptop first before grabbing Ulbricht.

On the third day of the trial the defense began poking holes in the prosecutions version of events. The Defense sought to prove that Der-Yeghiayan has suspected others of potentially being DPR, and even stated that he was unsure who or how many people were DPR. The court erupted when Der-Yeghiayan confirmed that he had suspected disgraced Mt GOX CEO, Mark Karpeles, and his right hand man, Ashley Barr, of being the masterminds behind Silk Road.

He even went so far as to sign an affidavit stating he had probable cause to get a warrant to search Karpeles’ emails. Der-Yeghiayan also expressed frustration with a parallel Baltimore, Maryland investigation that seized money from Karpeles associated with alleged illegal money transfer business, tipping him off to the fact that there was a government investigation underway. It was also revealed that Karpeles’ attorney told Maryland investigators he wanted to make a deal that he would say who he thought was behind Silk Roak in exchange for immunity for potential unlicensed money transfer business.

Last week’s proceedings finished with Judge Forrest dismissing the jurors early so the Defense and Prosecution could work out exactly what evidence would be allowed into the court room. The prosecution argued that alternative investigations being conducted by Der-Yeghiayan amounted to hearsay and were “irrelevant”. At one point Judge Forrest said she believed the evidence to be very relevant and the court room broke out in laughter. When court returns on Tuesday the judge will allow both sides to present supporting cases before she decides if the jury should hear about the other investigation.

The jury will also be hearing from a computer expert who was in possession of Ulbricht’s computer after his arrest. This might lead to a better understanding of exactly how the government was able to find Ross Ulbricht. The authorities claim they were able to track Ulbricht after a simple hole in his security was allegedly located because of a faulty CAPTCHA page. The CAPTCHA page is a security feature that jumbles characters and asks a user to enter the characters to prove they are not a bot.

However, Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute and University of California, called the FBI’s version of event “inconsistent with reality”. Online security and privacy researcher Nik Cubrilovic also called the scenario “impossible”. If the FBI obtained access to the website, and thus Ulbricht, through illegal means then the evidence could be thrown out. Unfortunately for his team to make that defense they would have to claim ownership of the site itself. Something they seemed determined to avoid.

The trial is expected to run for another 3-5 weeks before arguments conclude and the jury makes it decision.

Follow @DBrozeLiveFree for updates.

Trial Begins for Alleged Silk Road Founder Ross Ulbricht

New York City – On Tuesday morning jury selection will begin in the trial of Ross Ulbricht, the alleged founder of the Silk Road online market place where goods and services could be sold and paid for anonymously using Bitcoin.

Specifically, Ulbricht has plead not guilty to trafficking drugs on the Internet, narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, computer-hacking conspiracy and money-laundering conspiracy. The authorities will attempt to convince a jury that Ulbricht is Dread Pirate Roberts, the alias used by an individual or team of people who handled administrative duties on the website.

The Silk Road website and others like it are a part of what is known as the deep web, or sometimes the dark web. This internet beyond the world wide web offers access to products and services which are either illegal or taboo. This could include illicit drugs, fake identification cards, weapons, child pornography, or simply transactions taking place outside of the range of the government, without taxes. Customers pay for their purchases with the popular anonymous crypto-currency Bitcoin.

In order to access the deep web users download software such as the anonymous browser Tor. The details of how the deep web, bitcoin, Tor, and other underground internet infrastructure will be on display in a trial unlike any other  before it. The trial may drag on for as long as six weeks, with the defense expected to challenge much of the 240 exhibits of evidence expected to be introduced by the prosecution.

The prosecution is attempting to prove that not only was Ulbricht the famed Dread Pirate Roberts, but he was active in the creation and distribution of illegal drugs. The prosecution is also attempting to tie Ulbricht to a murder for hire plot where they allege he solicited the murder of six people who threatened to release information about the Silk Road staff and users. A user going by the name FriendlyChemist was apparently going to publish the names unless paid $500,000. The government says Ulbricht paid someone $150,000 to kill the user.

Ulbricht has been charged for these suspected crimes in a court in Baltimore. Despite this the charges with still appear in submissions to the jury. These are known surplusage, or “uncharged crimes”, which are not official charges and do not require proof. Ulbricht’s team attempted to have this information blocked from trial but Federal Judge Katherine Forest rejected the motion. Despite this, the prosecution admits to having no evidence that these alleged plots were ever carried out.

The most dangerous aspect of the trial is something known as transferred intent. This doctrine will allow the government to attempt to convince the jury that Ulbricht is responsible for the activities of the website itself, whether or not he was directly involved. Ross’s mother Lyn Ulbricht has said that if the precedent is set during her son’s trial it could “put a chill on the internet.”

Indeed, if the governments arguments convince the jury that Ulbricht is guilty of the crimes by simply hosting them it could create a dangerous situation where website owners could be held responsible for users comments on a site, or for the products sold on ebay or craigslist.

As the IB Times wrote, “If found guilty he will go down as the first person in history to be convicted for the actions of the users of his website, rather than merely his own actions.”

When Ulbricht was arrested on October 2013 federal agents seized around $3.6 million worth of bitcoin. Ulbricht’s team attempted to keep documents seized by the government from being used in court. Judge Forrest rejected the motion. The authorities claim they were able to track Ulbricht after a simple hole in his security was allegedly located because of a faulty CAPTCHA page. The CAPTCHA page is a security feature that jumbles characters and asks a user to enter the characters to prove they are not a bot.

However, Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute and University of California, called the FBI’s version of event “inconsistent with reality”.  Online security and privacy researcher Nik Cubrilovic also called the scenario “impossible”. If the FBI obtained access to the website, and thus Ulbricht, through illegal means then the evidence could be thrown out. Unfortunately for his team to make that defense they would have to claim ownership of the site itself. Something they seemed determined to avoid.

A recently released list of evidence expected to presented by the prosecution outlines their plan to use screenshots of Ulbricht’s computers that allegedly link him to the Silk Road and Dread Pirate Roberts. The defense is expected to object to much of the 240 exhibits that will be presented.

The exhibits themselves should fill in background on how exactly the authorities located the sites servers, and who on the administrative team served as an informant to the feds.

Whether Ulbricht and DPR are one and the same remains to be seen. What we can pull from this trial already is the fact that Ulbricht is not the only one on trial. Internet freedom, Bitcoin, and the deep web are also on trial.

Perhaps the words of Dread Pirate Roberts himself illustrate the true reason for the government’s heavy pursuit of Ulbricht and others suspected of being involved in the enterprise.

Sector by sector the state is being cut out of the equation and power is being returned to the individual. I don’t think anyone can comprehend the magnitude of the revolution we are in. I think it will be looked back on as an epoch in the evolution of mankind.

For updates on the trial as it progresses follow Derrick Broze @DBrozeLiveFree and stay tuned to this blog.

Retrial for Officer Joseph Weekly to begin in Detroit

Four years ago, the Detroit Police Department conducted a raid on a home in search of a murder suspect, but a 7-year-old girl was caught in the crossfire.

Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed during the raid from a gunshot wound to her head.  Aiyana was sleeping on the couch in the living room of the house, when a flash grenade thrown by police crashed through the window.  The police hoped the grenade would render the inhabitants inside the house confused and easy to subdue.  After the grenade went off, police stormed the house, and within seconds, Aiyana was shot and killed.

Officer Joseph Weekly, 38, is being charged with involuntary manslaughter and careless discharge of a firearm which resulted in the death of Aiyana.  Officer Weekly testified in court for his first trial in 2013, according to RT, “I replay this every day in my head… There’s nothing else I could have done differently.”

His first trial ended in a deadlock and was declared a mistrial in June, 2013.

The retrial is set to begin soon as juror selection began this morning despite Officer Weekly’s attorney, Steve Fishman, asking for an adjournment until 2015 following the shooting in Ferguson.  Fishman wrote, according to the Detroit Free Press, the “media frenzy” following the shooting has resulted in the vilification of police officers across the nation, and this would not allow for a fair and unbiased trial for Officer Weekly.

His defense is calling the shooting tragic, but also defending Officer Weekly saying his actions were not grossly negligent.

Officer Weekly is part of the Special Response Team who was carrying out a warrant in search of Chauncey Owens, a suspect in the death of 17-year-old Je’Rean Blake.  Aiyana’s father, Charles, is accused of providing the gun which was used to kill Blake.

Blackwater trial for 2007 shooting in Iraq begins closing arguments

Four former security guards for Blackwater Worldwide, which was renamed Academi in 2011, have been facing trial over the past couple of months in the U.S. for the 2007 shooting deaths of 14 civilians in Baghdad, Iraq.

According to ABC News, a federal prosecutor told a jury Wednesday the four in question “unleashed a hail of gunfire” into a crowd of Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in the heart of Baghdad.  Besides the 14 who were killed, 18 others suffered from various wounds related to the shooting, none of which were fatal.

Many of the victims were shot in the back as they tried to flee the Square, noted federal prosecutor Anothony Asuncion.  Paul Slough, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, and Nicholas Slatten are said to have fired into the crowd which caused the exodus from the Square.

Slough, Heard, and Liberty are facing charges of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, and firearms related offenses, all of which could carry upwards of 30 years, according to the Raw Story.

Slatten is being charged separately for the shooting death of Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y who was driving a white Kia in the area.  Prosecutors are saying the shooting death of Al Rubia’y is what prompted the civilians to flee in the first place, causing the incident to unfold.

The jury has heard from some of the family members of the victims who were killed.  One witness had recounted how his nine-year-old son’s brains had fallen out at his feet during the incident.

According to Reuters, a member of Blackwater unit Raven 23 also told jurors how Slatten had called all Iraqis “animals” and how he had boasted of shooting a man in the head, turning his head into “a canoe.”

Testimony will be heard from the defense later this week and deliberations are expected to begin next week.

Charges against Heard and Liberty concerning the death of five civilians in the incident have already been dismissed.