Ross Ulbricht’s defense attorney, Joshua Dratel, does not deny that his client founded the Silk Road. Indeed, Ulbricht began the illicit dark web drug market in February 2011, Dratel says, as a sort “economic experiment” relating to Ulbricht’s libertarian belief system. However, the defense claims that after a few months, Ulbricht “found it too stressful” and turned the reigns over to other people who had begun working on it with him.
In a 2013 interview with what seemed to be the real Dread Pirate Roberts, Forbes writer Andy Greenberg was told something similar. The Dread Pirate Roberts of that interview said that he had met the founder through helping with security flaws in the Bitcoin wallet and then after a time had suggested handing over the site’s operations to Dread Pirate Roberts. This interview is evidence that the story Dratel is telling could be true, but the federal government also has new evidence that could be even more damning.
A college friend of Ross Ulbricht will apparently be witnessing for the prosecution and in his statement, he will tell the jury that Ross Ulbricht confessed ownership of the Silk Road to him between 2010 and 2011. This alone does not necessarily contradict the story of the defense, but another key development is that the prosecution has possession of a journal Ulbricht kept which details his activities as administrator of the site. Supposing that journal’s contents contradict the timeline Ulbricht is giving as to when he quit and when, the defense claims, he was lured back specifically to be a fall guy, the prosecution’s case only gets a major boost because the defense is not denying Ulbricht’s involvement in the site.
As a recap, the Ulbricht defense is essentially this: Ulbricht began the site as an experiment, became overly stressed by it, and turned it over to Dread Pirate Roberts. The prosecution claims that Ulbricht was Dread Pirate Roberts all along. If the defense can disprove only this fact, the prosecution’s case could begin to unravel.
Last month the judge in the case refused to reveal the witnesses for the prosecution because she claimed he could have them killed despite his obvious inability to communicate with anyone capable of doing so. Since the fall of the Silk Road, several other online drug marketplaces have risen to serve the market’s vacuum.
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