Tag Archives: Katherine Forrest

“Treatment We Associate With Regimes We Revile as Unjust …”

Silk Road Seized

On January 29, US District Judge Katherine B. Forrest ordered the release of immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir from pre-deportation detention.

Ragbir, who came to the US from Trinidad in 1991 and got his “green card” in 1994, has been fighting deportation over a fraud conviction since 2006.  Earlier this month, while checking in with immigration authorities to renew his annual extension, he was detained and jailed.

Ragbir’s is an interesting and compelling story, but this column is about Forrest and the elegant hypocrisy of her words in ordering his release:

“It ought not to be — and it has never before been — that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust, regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken without notice from streets, home, and work. And sent away. We are not that country; and woe be the day that we become that country under a fiction that laws allow it. The Constitution commands better.”

Where, I wonder, was Forrest’s devotion to the Constitution when she sentenced Ross Ulbricht to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2015?

Ulbricht’s crime was, simply put, operating a web site — Silk Road, on which users bought and sold things both legal and illegal — without permission from the regime Forrest serves.

Ulbricht’s trial was a farce from beginning to end. The  prosecution poisoned the jury pool with claims that Ulbricht had hired out multiple murders. It then withdrew the accusation before trial — but Forrest included them  as part of her justification for the harsh sentence.

The prosecution hid the fact that two government agents working on the case were under investigation for (and would eventually be convicted of) wire fraud and money laundering charges for using their investigative power to steal Bitcoin from Silk Road. A third agent was later accused of tampering with evidence.

Forrest forbade the defense to present its alternative theory of who ran Silk Road. There’s a term for a trial in which the defense is forbidden to defend the defendant. It’s called a “show trial.”

Ulbricht’s defense team has appealed his conviction to the US Supreme Court. Hopefully that appeal will be successful. The trial administered by, and the sentence handed down by, Katherine B. Forrest, deserve to be repudiated as what they are: Treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Un-Reasonable: Feds Declare War on Web Commenters

Liberty Leading the People
Liberty Leading the People (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve previously written about Ross Ulbricht, an American political prisoner sentenced to life for the “crime” of running a business without the US government’s permission. Among libertarians, the response to Ulbricht’s abduction and show trial has been, in some cases, less than polite and temperate. Now, the state is moving against its critics.

Last week, as Ken White of Popehat reports, the US Department of Justice served Reason — a popular libertarian magazine and web site — with a grand jury subpoena demanding that it provide “any and all identifying information” it possesses regarding certain commenters on reporter Nick Gillespie’s coverage of Ulbricht’s sentencing.

Some of those commenters, it seems, waxed less than respectful of Katherine Forrest, the thug — er, “judge” — who ratified Ulbricht’s abduction and ordered it extended for life.

One or two of those commenters suggested that she should suffer the torments of hell, either in the afterlife or this one. Others referenced the use of a wood chipper to dispose of a body in the film Fargo as fitting punishment for her actions.

Just to be perfectly clear here, I agree 100% with the tone of those comments. While I have not publicly made such suggestions — I’ve limited myself to suggesting that she be thoroughly ostracized, that all persons of good character shun her — I really can’t think of any penalty that goes too far for what she has done and, presumably, intends to continue doing.

I have every right to such an opinion, and to its expression. So do you. Those rights are even enshrined in “the supreme law of the land” in which Forrest committed her atrocities (it’s in the First Amendment to the US Constitution).

This is, in a word, an outrage. But it gets worse.

The feds wanted Reason to keep the subpoena secret. It’s unclear whether they’ve issued a formal “gag order” in connection with the subpoena, but the document itself says that “[t]he Government hereby requests that you voluntarily refrain from disclosing the existence of the subpoena to any third party.”

So: The US government is trying to track down people who say things it doesn’t like — things which no reasonable person could construe as “true threats” — for possible prosecution (grand juries don’t subpoena people to offer them coffee and donuts). And it doesn’t want you to know it’s doing that.

Let that sink in. If you’ve ever doubted for a minute that America is becoming a police state, this chain of events should settle the question once and for all. The US government has declared war on free speech and the free press. It has declared war on YOU. Will you fight back?

[hat tip — Wendy McElroy]

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.




Ross Ulbricht is a Political Prisoner

RGBStock.com Prison Photo

In early February, federal jurors convicted Ross Ulbricht on seven charges relating to the operations of the Silk Road online marketplace. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

As documented in Alex Winter’s film Deep Web, calling the three-week farce preceding these convictions a “show trial” insults both shows and trials. The fix was in from the beginning.

The “judge,” one Katherine Forrest, consistently and flagrantly acted as a dedicated member of the prosecution team. She neither required the government to prove its case nor allowed Ulbricht’s attorneys to actually present a defense.

Forrest denied Ulbricht bail on the prosecution’s charges of conspiracy to commit murder. After those charges were dropped from the indictment — their sole purpose apparently being  to poison the jury well in advance — she allowed them to be used to justify hiding witness identities, and thousands of pages of discovery material, from the defense until a few days before trial.

She excused the prosecution from revealing how it had located and seized Silk Road’s servers, allowing evidence that appears to have been the “poisoned fruit” of illegal warrantless searches. She forbade the defense to present its theory of the alleged “crimes” involving other suspects or to dissect the FBI’s technical claims using expert witnesses.

At every juncture, Forrest acted not with a view toward reaching truth or justice, but with the sole and overriding aim of getting a conviction.

And the actual charges? Boiled down, they consist of this:

Ross Ulbricht was accused and convicted of operating a business, which coordinated the sale and purchase of goods between willing sellers and willing buyers, without the permission of people who think they’re entitled to control everyone else. Full stop. THAT is what Ross Ulbricht stands convicted of.

Ross Ulbricht was convicted of living his life as a free human being instead of as a compliant, obedient slave.

The state can’t tolerate free human beings. They call its own necessity into question and must be made examples of whenever possible.

Tyrants like US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) — who made shutting down Silk Road a government priority — and bureaucratic thugs like US Attorney Preet Bharara and judge Katherine Forrest, who enforced his will, are the sworn and eternal enemies of freedom. Ross Ulbricht is their political prisoner. So long as we permit them to continue in power, so are we.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.