The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)

‘Treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust ...’

- By Thomas L. Knapp

On Jan. 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 website — 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.

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