It turns out that the founder and operator of the "Silk Road" website, which had frustrated law enforcement for the past several years, has a masters degree from Penn State. Ross Ulbricht, who earned a masters in material science and engineering from Penn State in 2010, was arrested yesterday in San Francisco on a variety of federal charges related to his operation of Silk Road, as well as charges related to a murder for hire plot, in which Ulbricht allegedly sought the murder of someone who was trying to extort money form him, and an employee to had defrauded Silk Road users out of a substantial amount of money.
Last week, I posted a blog about status-based aggravated assaults, and this week's news provides a brazen example of this offense. Andre Staton was convicted by a Blair County jury in 2005, for the murder of his girlfriend, and then sentenced to death. Tim Burns was the tenth attorney to represent Staton, but he will not be the last. When Attorney Burns agreed with Judge Elizabeth Doyle that Staton should not be permitted to represent himself during a May 15, 2013, court proceeding, an enraged Staton swung his handcuffed arms like a baseball bat, striking Burns in the head and knocking him out. Burns continues to experience complications from the attack. Because Burns was a court-appointed attorney, he is the functional equivalent of a public defender, thus making this a status based aggravated assault, however, the injuries themselves might make this an aggravated assault. Of course, any discussion of what to charge Staton with is academic, as it is hard to inflict any meaningful punishment upon a death row inmate.