April 28, 2015 / 2:50 PM / 2 years ago

No new trial for man behind illicit Silk Road website

A Bitcoin (virtual currency) paper wallet with QR codes and coins are seen in an illustration picture taken at La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris July 11, 2014.Benoit Tessier

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Manhattan federal judge has denied a request for a new trial for Ross Ulbricht, the man convicted of being the mastermind behind the Silk Road online black market for illegal drugs

Calling evidence of Ulbricht's guilt "overwhelming," U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest on Monday night rejected arguments that the defendant was improperly denied the right to review materials demonstrating his innocence, or examine alleged corruption by two "rogue" federal agents involved in the case.

"According to Ulbricht, the government's gamesmanship in this regard led to inadequate trial preparation, an inability to investigate whether certain evidence might be exculpatory, and, ultimately, an unfair trial," Forrest wrote in a 25-page decision. "These arguments are without merit."

Ulbricht is appealing his conviction. In an email on Tuesday, his lawyer, Joshua Dratel, said the legal issues reviewed in Forrest's decision will be addressed in the appeal.

A federal jury on Feb. 4 found Ulbricht, 31, guilty of narcotics and other charges for helping to enable about $200 million of anonymous 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 conceded that he created Silk Road, but said he was not responsible for illegal activity there.

On March 30, the U.S. Department of Justice announced criminal charges, accusing former federal agents Carl Force and Shaun Bridges of wire fraud and money laundering tied to their alleged theft of bitcoin during the Silk Road probe.

Forrest said she found no basis to believe any undisclosed material related to the agents would have been "remotely useful" to Ulbricht's defense. "There is no reasonable probability of a different outcome here," she wrote.

Ulbricht faces up to life in prison. Dratel has asked that the May 15 sentencing be delayed, saying in part he needs to review new information from prosecutors on six alleged overdose deaths attributed to drugs bought from vendors on Silk Road.

The case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No, 14-cr-00068.

Editing by Peter Galloway

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