Asperger’s Syndrome means detention in US would be inhumane, counsel for Gary Davis says
A Wicklow man alleged to be an administrator of the Silk Road website, which dealt with illegal drugs and hacking software, has been put into custody ahead of his extradition to the United States.
Gary Davis (28) of Johnstown Court, Kilpedder, Co Wicklow, is wanted by US authorities to face trial on charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, conspiracy to commit computer hacking and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
If convicted in the US Mr Davis could receive a life sentence. It is probable that he will be incarcerated pending his trial.
His extradition was ordered by the High Court last August and an appeal against that order was dismissed by the three-judge Court of Appeal on Tuesday.
Mr Davis had opposed his extradition on grounds that he suffers from both a form of autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome and depression. Among his points of objection were that if he is extradited he will be detained in an inhumane and degrading manner.
Counsel for Mr Davis, John O’Kelly SC, told the Court of Appeal that people with severe Asperger’s Syndrome were “very heavily” reliant on family support and on their world remaining very much the same, but Mr Davis would be “totally torn” from his roots and isolated from his family, were he to be extradited.
Mr O’Kelly said his client would require a system of care so individualised to him that it simply was not available in the US prison system. He said statements from US prison authorities about their system were “aspirational” and accorded more with the policies of the Federal Bureau of Prisons rather than reality.
‘Decision based on facts’
Dismissing his appeal on Tuesday, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the subject matter of the appeal was not based upon a point of law and as such, was not permitted in law.
Mr Justice Mahon said the High Court judge’s decision was based on facts found by him following a detailed and thorough consideration of evidence and information, including medical evidence and evidence relating to the US federal prison system.
The appeal effectively invited the court to reach a different conclusion on the same evidence to that of the High Court, Mr Justice Mahon said.
Even if this court was empowered to review the High Court judge’s findings, Mr Justice Mahon said he would not reach a different conclusion.
“I wish to emphasis that I in no way seek to diminish or trivialise the very real concerns and worries of the appellant (Davis) and his family as he faces the prospect of extradition to the United States and being imprisoned there,” Mr Justice Mahon said.
“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 Davis.
It is hoped that the extent to which the issues relating to Mr Davis’ diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome had been debated and considered in these proceedings, and the assurances provided by the US authorities will reduce these concerns to an appreciable degree, the judge said.
Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards said they agreed with Mr Justice Mahon’s judgment.
After the judgment was delivered, Mr Davis accepted the judgment with a nod to the large number of family members and supporters who had joined him in court. They came to embrace him, amid emotional scenes, but he was lead away by prison officers before he could embrace all of them.
He has been on bail since his arrest in January 2014.
It is alleged that Mr Davis was an administrator of the Silk Road website using the pseudonym “Libertas”, according to the Court of Appeal’s judgment.
The website is said to have facilitated the sale of illicit drugs including cocaine, crack cocaine, crystal meth and other illegal drugs.
Purchasers of illicit drugs from the website were paid in “Bitcoins” and Silk Road revenue was based on a commission of between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of sale revenue.
‘Loner, naive and immature’
Commissions earned by Silk Road are said to run to tens of millions of dollars.It is alleged that Mr Davis was paid $1,500 per week for his services.
In the course of its investigation of the Silk Road website, the FBI arrested a US citizen Ross Ulbricht, whom it is believed is the owner and operator if the website. It is alleged that Mr Davis’s involvement was identified from information extracted from Mr Ulbricht’s computers.
Mr Davis lives with his parents in Wicklow. He is the youngest of five children, has a poor employment history, is “obsessed with computers” and is described as a “loner, naive and immature”.
In a report dated January 21st, 2014, consultant psychiatrist Prof Michael Fitzgerald diagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome depressive disorder and generalised anxiety disorder. In his view, Asperger’s Syndrome has been evident since childhood.
Prof Simon Barron Cohen, Professor of Development Psychopathology at Trinity College Cambridge, confirmed Prof Fitzgerald’s diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. Prof Barron-Cohen rated his Asperger’s Syndrome as being “very severe”.
Mr Davis will not be extradited until after the expiration of a 15-day-period.
There was no indication given in court regarding an appeal to the Supreme Court.