Science & Technology

Ross Ulbricht Trial: Did Start Silk Road, But Not the Guilty Dread Pirate Roberts? UPDATED


Andy Greenberg of Wired, who when he was with Forbes had the first major interview with someone alleging to be the "Dread Pirate Roberts" in August 2013 who at the time operated Silk Road, tweeted this hour here and here that defense in the Ulbricht trial today is admitting Ross Ulbricht did start Silk Road.

But that doesn't mean he's pleading guilty. As per the theory that leadership of the site changed over time, discussed in my December Reason feature on Silk Road, he apparently says he was not the "Dread Pirate Roberts" who is guilty of the crimes at issue in this trial.

Tweets read: "Defense's opening statement claims Ulbricht created Silk Road but gave it up was the "fall guy" for the real DPR…story coming" and "Sorry, lost a comma. Defense claim is he gave up control of Silk Road, but was made into the fall guy by the "real Dread Pirate Roberts"

Will update as more info available.

UPDATE: Here is some of what Greenberg is reporting from the first day of the Ulbricht trial at Wired:

In his opening statement in a Manhattan courtroom, defense attorney Joshua Dratel began with a surprising admission: that his client Ross Ulbricht was in fact the founder of the Silk Road.

But Dratel went on to explain that the site was meant merely to be a kind of "economic experiment" that Ulbricht only controlled for a brief time. The eventual adoptive owners of the Silk Road, Dratel claimed, would later trick Ulbricht into serving as the "fall guy" when they sensed an impending law enforcement crackdown.

"After a few months, he found it too stressful for him, and he handed it over to others," Dratel told the jury, describing the Silk Road's early days. "At the end, he was lured back by those operators to…take the fall for the people running the website."

"Ross was not a drug dealer," Dratel added. "He was not a kingpin."….

In Dratel's version of events, Ulbricht's store of bitcoins was simply the earnings from his early investments in the cryptocurrency, not the Silk Road profits the prosecutors allege. He points out that the bitcoins seized from Ulbricht are only a "small fraction" of the full $18 million the government has said the Dread Pirate Roberts earned in Silk Road commissions. And he implied that the evidence found on Ulbricht's computer at the time of his arrest was falsified to "leave him holding the bag when the real operators of Silk Road knew their time was up." He didn't elaborate on how evidence could have been planted on Ulbricht's PC.

Greenberg says things that an alleged "Dread Pirate Roberts" told him match this story:

When I interviewed the Dread Pirate Roberts in July of 2013, he claimed that he had actually purchased the Silk Road from its creator after helping him to patch a security flaw in the site. "I didn't start the Silk Road, my predecessor did…I was in his corner from early on and eventually it made sense for me to take the reigns," Roberts told me.