Threat Management

Alleged Silk Road admin to be extradited to U.S. despite Asperger’s


A man with Asperger's syndrome accused of being an administrator of a criminal dark web marketplace will face trial in America after his appeal against extradition was dismissed.

Judge Mahon of the Irish Court of Appeal dismissed Gary Davis' appeal on 28 February, upholding the original judgement that ordered Davis to be extradited to America to face charges related to his alleged role in running  the illicit dark web marketplace, Silk Road.

The court accepted that Gary Davis suffers from Asperger's syndrome and depression but concluded that extraditing him to America to face trial would not be a violation of his rights under Irish law and the European Convention of Human Rights.

Davis was to be extradited to the US last summer to face charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, commit computer hacking and launder money. He is alleged to have been part of the illicit dark web marketplace and to have worked as an administrator for the site under the pseudonym ‘Libertas', where he was paid US $1500 (£1200) a week.

The Silk Road gained notoriety as a dark web marketplace where one could buy a range of illegal goods and services including hacking software and false identity documents.

It was however best known as being a platform for the sale of a wide array of narcotics. After having earned tens of millions of pounds in bitcoins, the website was shut down by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2013. That same year, Ross William Ulbricht – aka ‘Dread Pirate Roberts' – was arrested and later sentenced to life imprisonment.

Evidence for Davis' supposed involvement was taken from Ulbricht's computers. The indictment was issued by the Southern Capital District of New York in December 2013, and Davis was arrested by Irish police in January 2014. On 12 August the Irish High Court ordered Davis to be extradited and soon after an appeal was filed.

Davis' appeal argued that because he has Asperger's syndrome and suffers from depression, his extradition would be in breach of his rights under Irish and European law. Specifically in contention was article three of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which prohibits torture and  "inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", and article eight which ensures “respect for one's private and family life, his home and his correspondence".

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, professor of development psychopathology at Trinity College, Cambridge, confirmed that Davis' case of Asperger's is indeed severe. Baron-Cohen noted that Davis relies on his family a great deal as he struggles to live independently and that his condition “affects his social judgment so that he ends up in situations that could be misinterpreted by others to his determent”.

Furthermore, Baron-Cohen added, his depression “is not just at ordinary levels of sadness but are signs of serious mental ill health. As for how this might affect his ability to be extradited, it is clear that he feels extradition would be impossible and that extradition could precipitate a suicide attempt.”

Davis, the appeal claimed, would be at risk of being subjected to “inhuman and degrading treatment if incarcerated within the US prison system”.

Upon extradition, Davis will likely be incarcerated and transferred into the special housing unit of a maximum security prison.  Herbert J. Haelter, chief executive and co-founder of the National Sentence on Institutions and Alternatives, noted this would subject him to extreme conditions for up to 23 hours a day with few opportunities for contact with his family and exposure to bullying and violence. He would be subjected to such conditions, Haelter added, for anywhere between six and eighteen months.

Representatives of the US prison system rejected many of Haelter's assertions, saying that Davis would be removed from the general prison population and would have access to mental health facilities and the necessary medications to treat his conditions.

Judge Mahon expressed sympathy towards Davis, saying that he did not wish to diminish the concerns of someone with Davis' conditions facing incarceration in the US: “Such a prospect would be daunting for an individual in robust mental health let alone someone coping with a significant mental health condition such as the appellant.”

Judge Mahon ultimately dismissed the appeal, saying that the original High Court judgement was valid.

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