In the Second District Court of New York, the trial of Ross "Dread Pirate Roberts" Ulbricht began with jury selection on Tuesday. Ulbricht, 30, is being accused of running the notorious online marketplace 'Silk Road' back in 2013 before Federal authorities arrested him. He is faced with two Federal cases: there are charges of narcotics conspiracy, money laundering, and computer fraud in New York, and six charges of murder-for-hire plots in Baltimore. These charges could land him a sentence of life in prison.
Ross Ulbricht Trial Coverage
Here is my recap of both the defense's and prosecution's opening statements.
Silk Road, a Testing Ground for Bitcoin
The online marketplace 'Silk Road' gained popularity for its obscured use in the deep-web. Integral to its success was the use of Bitcoin as the only form of payment. Bitcoin, complementing the anonymity of the tor network needed to access the site, provided users with another layer of pseudo-anonymity, given that users are not required to link their identity with their wallet. This allowed the Silk Road offer mostly anything for sale, including the sale of drugs, narcotics, and later on, weapons.
This site, while supporting the sale of many questionable material and products, proved that Bitcoin can certainly work in facilitating trade and merchant solutions. However, because Silk Road did provide a good platform for such sales, it attracted the eyes of regulators and lawmakers around the world.
Ulbricht, a Landmark Case
The trial is picking up in New York City this week under the Honorable Judge Katherine Forrest. Ulbricht has pleaded 'not guilty' with his defense forcing the prosecution to prove that Ulbricht is "Dread Pirate Roberts."
This is setting up to be a landmark case, not only for the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency community, but for the digital age, especially when in October, Judge Forrest dismissed suppressing evidence that may have been attained illegally: the FBI infiltrated a Silk Road server in Iceland without a warrant, but Forrest justified that because the defense had not proved that the server belonged to Ulbricht (which would have self-convicted him), there is no warrant necessary because Ulbricht cannot claim privacy rights over that server. You can read more about the conundrum in our article here.
To follow the court cases by number, the murder-for-hire case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, 13-00222, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Baltimore). The criminal case number is U.S. v. Ulbricht, 14-cr-068, and the civil forfeiture case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, 13-cv-06919, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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