If You Care About Internet Freedom, Read About Ross Ulbricht's Silk Road Trial NOW


Delayed since November, the trial of Ross Ulbricht, the former Eagle Scout who stands accused of running the "dark Web" site Silk Road, is scheduled to begin on January 5, 2015.

You remember Silk Road, right, which seemed like something out of a William Gibson or Neal Stephenson novel? Operated by the pseudonymous "Dread Pirate Roberts," it was the "Amazon.com for drugs" and other illegal substances and activities, a Bitcoin-driven den of thieves, murderers, and worse. Or maybe not; read Brian Doherty's recent Reason mag feature on it.

Whatever you think about all that, Ulbricht's trial is about more than the feds shutting down a site that allowed people to buy and sell drugs. It intersects with all sorts of issues related to state surveillance, burden of proof, and whether ISPs and marketplace sites can be held liable for the actions of users. Watch the interview above with Ulbricht's mother, Lynn, who is a powerful explicator of the larger issues at stake in this case. Full disclosure: I've given $100 to Ulbricht's defense fund because I want to see a full airing of those issues. We live in an age where government surveillance is, in my opinion, largely out of control and unchecked. For all the good they do, federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies such as the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA have proven track records of vastly exceeding the scope of their powers and the executive branch often seems to be egging them on. Let's get as much of this out in the open as we possibly can. 

For more information on the case and Ulbricht, go to Free Ross UlbrichtFrom its pages:

By its own admission, the FBI has no documentation of how they found the Silk Road server, which comprises the bulk of their evidence.  Without forensic documentation there is no guarantee that the evidence is valid or even that it wasn't fabricated. The explanation of how the FBI found the server has been widely criticized by technical and security experts, one calling it "inconsistent with reality"; another "impossible"; and another a lie and gibberish.

Ross has been arraigned in New York on a superseding indictment. He is pleading not guilty to all charges: narcotics trafficking; computer hacking; money laundering; engaging in a criminal enterprise; and conspiracy to traffic in fraudulent IDs. Ross' family and friends believe he is falsely accused and  innocent of the charges.

The case is scheduled to be tried beginning January 5, 2015 in Judge Katherine Forrest's courtroom, #15A,  Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Courthouse, 500 Pearl St., New York, NY.

Although initially alleged to have planned six murders, Ross was never indicted in New York for any.

That last point is kind of amazing, since you'd think alleged hits would play a starring role in the federal prosecution. Certainly, it's the murder-for-hire charges that have driven the press attention, from The New York Times Magazine's blockbuster story on the case from January 2014 ("Eagle Scout. Idealist. Drug Trafficker?") to stories about the upcoming trial. Consider this lede from a Bloomberg news piece:

Ross Ulbricht, the alleged mastermind of the $1.2 billion online "black-market bazaar" known as Silk Road, attempted to arrange the murders of at least six people including a worker he believed had stolen $350,000 in bitcoins from him, the U.S. said.

While the murder-for-hire plots aren't part of the government's indictment of Ulbricht, federal prosecutors in New York are seeking to use them as evidence against him at his trial set to begin Jan. 5. The alleged schemes support the government's argument that Ulbricht conspired to protect the criminal enterprise, prosecutors said yesterday in a court filing.

So the feds want people to know that Ulbricht is a deranged would-be murderer as his trial begins. They just don't want to, you know, substantiate the charges. It's a classic legal ploy and it was the murder charges more than anything else that kept Ulbricht behind bars while awaiting trial.

Reason on Silk Road.

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  1. Good reason to not dodge jury duty.

    1. I've been voting for 13 years now and have never been called for jury duty. And I want to be!

      1. I have been called a few times. And I have always been dismissed by either the judge or the prosecutor.

        1. Ditto. Once, I accidentally corrupted the whole jury pool.

          1. "Accidentally" hehehe

            1. In the most limited sense. I didn't consider what I was trying to achieve "corruption".

              1. I actually got selected for jury duty just the other day. I really didn't like filling out a government form that says at the top "you must..." but I did and now hopefully I get selected for a victimless crime prosecution and I'll get to acquit or perhaps even educated my fellow jurors about nullification.

                1. Good luck. But if you want on, don't talk to anyone, and don't volunteer any information in voir dior. Give brief answers to questions directly asked.

                  And try no to laugh at how ridiculous it's gotten with all that powerpoint bullshit.

                  1. I won't be offering the prosecutor any libertarian principles of justice, that is to say rational principles of justice, until I'm seated and rendering a verdict. Otherwise I'll be told something like "we don't take kindly to your type round here." and be booted from the jury.

                2. Well, that's disheartening. Your motivation for being on a jury is to acquit the defendant? You are exactly the type of person that shouldn't be on a jury.

      2. I've been voting for 13 years now

        So it's your fault!

  2. For all the good they do, federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies such as the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA

    Citation needed.

    OK, that was snark. They obviously do valid and important work. But honestly, at what point is that outweighed by the bad? Because it seems like a substantial amount of effort the 3-Letters goes towards enforcing unjust laws, boondoggles, and figuring out what foreign leaders had for breakfast so that we are prepared to use their indigestion against them in trade negotiations. It would be interesting to see what would happen if we suspended all their activities for a few years. I'll even volunteer to camp out at the highest value targets so no one else has to put their ass on the line.

    1. The NSA and CIA are not law enforcement.They are to gather information outside the U.S. borders.These types should never be turned loose on the U.S. proper.They need to be held to the standards of the U.S military.

    2. I'm not so sure they do important work these days. Most of it involves murder, kidnapping and all around oppression for the sake of the state. The Sicherheit Dienst did important work for it's parent state to be sure, but not something that any ethically-able person should consider admirable.

  3. The Internet was the last little glimmer of hope for freedom for all of us.

    1. The network is uncontrollable, no matter what kind of "regulations" they try to impose. Hope springs eternal.

  4. They probably didn't charge him with the murder for hire counts so they can try him again if he is acquitted (i think they are pending in another jurisdiction).

    There were some denied motions to dismiss, so the defendant at least has an appealable issue. This could be a long, expensive ordeal.

  5. I don't get the point of adding "Eagle Scout" as a descriptor. As if it's either a) a significant accomplishment or b) genuine character reference.
    It's nearly as empty as when I read about a "decorated veteran" only to find out they have a National Defense Service Medal and an Achievement Medal. In other words they showed up.

    1. To be fair, I am pretty sure that Eagle Scouts do something more along the lines of an AAM than a National Defense Service Ribbon.

      1. The NDSR really is just "showing up", the AAM is supposed to be for doing something more than that.

        1. Showing up is honorable when showing up aided the military in any way DURING A TIME OF CONFLICT. Coking, clerking, driving or showing up and being available to obey an order helps free up another sniper. ou may not pull a trigger but help them get pulled.

          The AAM is an award that is reserved for lower ranks and is based on some achievement aiding the chain of command if there are no other awards for.

        2. More like an ARCOM at least

  6. the "dark Web" site

    Thank you, Nick!

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  9. I hope you all know that Ross Ulbricht isn't the real Dread Pirate Roberts.

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  11. Wired has an article, and they deleted the comments on it, because it seems people weren't buying the feds lies, I guess Barky threatened the 1907 espionage act again so they had to delete all the comments...

    The article quotes the feds evidence for murder for hire - and they show the vics text they stole somehow - and the CEO there says to another employee - about the one to be murdered - also an employee - "when do we terminate?" ...

    Of course everyone is supposed to be an idiot and not realize terminating and employee isn't a murder for hire - it's a letting go or a firing...
    ... six murders that never happened, not a one of em, and the feddies have all the evidence, and pulled em all off themselves... including one where they faked a snuff film/pics .. ROFL our wonderful government playing photoshop fools after soliciting under the threat of death - murder for hire...
    So at what point do I just not believe the ridiculous fed prosecutions and the endless streams of setups ... well already there

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