Ross Ulbricht, the alleged mastermind behind the only online drug marketplace, has been convicted of running Silk Road under the name Dread Pirate Roberts. He faces life in prison.
Ross Ulbricht, 30, who refused to testify in his own defense, was convicted of all seven crimes he was charged with, including including trafficking drugs on the Internet, narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, running a continuing criminal enterprise, computer-hacking conspiracy and money-laundering conspiracy.
The verdict came after little more than three hours of deliberations from the jury. The jury consisted of six-men and six-woman, who rejected Ulbricht’s claim that he only ran Silk Road for a few months and was the set up as the “fall guy” for Mark Karpeles.
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Silk Road, an Economic Experiment
At the onset of the case, Ulbritch’s defense attorneys quickly admitted that Ulbricht had created the Silk Road, but only as an “economic experiment”. He soon gave up the site and others took it over and grew it into the drug empire it was.
However, Ulbritch’s defense team was unable to present a credible explanation against the evidence found on Ulbricht’s personal laptop. His laptop was confiscated by FBI agents when they apprehended him in a public library in San Francisco’s Glen Park section.
Agents testified that they had found Ulbricht’s computer online chat transcripts, Silk Road maintenance logs, accounting entries and computer journal detailing the beginning and growth of Silk Road. The government also found more than $13 million in bitcoins, all of which were in some way traced back to Silk Road.
His defense was left arguing that his computer was hacked, and incriminating files was placed into his computer. Prosecutors called this story a “wild conspiracy theory” and a “desperate attempt to create a smokescreen.”
The lead attorney, Joshua Dratel, called for a mistrial no less than five times – the judge rejected each one. Ulbritcht’s defense team is already laying the grounds for an appeal. Dratel’s protests go back to the beginning during the pretrial where he motioned for a large portion of the prosecution’s evidence be suppressed. Dratel argued the evidence had been obtained illegally, but the judge dismissed the motion on a technicality. Dratel continued to face difficulties with the prosecution and judge on the issue of cross-examining a Department of Homeland Security witness and CEO of Mt.Gox Mark Karpeles. During the last days of the trial, Dratel continued to object strongly to the decision by the judge that disallowed two of the defense’s expert witnesses based on a “lack of qualifications.”
He faces no murder charges in New York but is still waiting trial in Baltimore in a murder-to-hire case.
His sentencing in New York is scheduled for May 15.