At least two former members of the US law enforcement agencies tasked with taking down the Silk Road demonstrated gross abuse of power. One of the two, a former Secret Service agent named Shaun W. Bridges, stole more than $800,000 in bitcoins from Silk Road accounts. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg convicted Bridges of the theft in 2015 and Bridges filed an appeal shortly afterwards. The 9th Circuit Court recently denied the appeal and the former Secret Service agent’s right to do so.
In 2015, Shaun Bridges pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice. And in the 2015 plea agreement, Bridges waived his right to file an appeal. He received a 71-month sentence in exchange for the guilty plea.
The three-judge panel that denied the defendant’s appeal also granted the request from Davina Pujari—the defendant’s former counsel—who asked to be removed from the case.
In August 2016, Pujari told the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that her client’s appeal was, in layman’s terms, nothing but a joke. She further requested the court’s permission to remove herself from the appeal. Pujari, notably, was not the only attorney who removed themselves from the case.
“After having carefully examined this record and after having researched the relevant statutes and case law, counsel has concluded that this appeal presents only legally frivolous issues. Therefore, counsel requests the Court’s permission to withdraw as attorney of record and to allow Appellant to file any further briefs he deems necessary.”
The three-judge-panel, in fewer words than Pujari, concurred. “Bridges has waived his right to appeal his conviction and sentence,” the panel wrote. “Because the record discloses no arguable issue as to the validity of the appeal waiver, we dismiss the appeal.”
Pujari highlighted the high-points of the appeal, noting that even they were of legal insignificance. The greatest of which being that Bridges objected to the testimony of the Silk Road admin Curtis Green. Curtis Green, according to Bridges, was a “surprise victim.” The claims Green made in the testimony were “the first time those claims had been made [and] their accuracy was questionable.”
According to the judge, the testimony played an important role in the sentence Bridges is serving. (A notably strict sentence as requested by the US government.) Green suffered emotional trauma and numerous death threats, according to his testimony. The second point built on the first. Bridges claimed that he signed the plea deal unaware of the surprise witness and thus never gave up his right to challenge the government’s decision.
And finally Bridges argued that the enhanced sentence relied on inaccurate loss or damage figures. The specific discrepancy was not even worth a mention in Pujari’s brief and likely was only a mere technicality.
Bridges is serving his 71-months in Terre Haute, Indiana—and if all goes according to plan, will not be leaving early. And the second corrupt federal agent in the Silk Road case, former DEA agent Carl Force, kept out the spotlight since the sentencing. No frivolous appeals from him.