Silk Road

Silk Road Trial Over: Ross Ulbricht Found Guilty on All 7 Counts [UPDATED With Reaction from Lawyer Joshua Dratel]

Defense promises an appeal.

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UPDATE: Ross Ulbricht's defense lawyer Joshua Dratel sent me this reaction to the verdict via email this afternoon: "The verdict was very disappointing.  Of course, there will be an appeal, and we are confident Ross has strong issues on appeal.  We believe there were significant errors at trial, including the limiting of defense cross-examination, the preclusion of defense experts, and the exclusion of certain defense evidence in the form of documents and other exhibits.  The extraordinarily short time the jury spent deliberating for a trial of this length and density demonstrates that these elements had a devastating effect at trial."

Original post:

Andy Greenberg, the only reporter to get an on-the-record interview with the Silk Road operator going under the pseudonym "Dread Pirate Roberts" back in August 2013, has the bad news from the trial, where after less than four hours of deliberation the jury has found Ross Ulbricht, accused of being DPR by the government, guilty on all seven counts. His sentence could range from a minimum 30 to a possible life. His defense team vows an appeal.

From Greenberg's Wired report:

30-year-old Ulbricht was convicted of all seven crimes he was charged with, including narcotics and money laundering conspiracies and a "kingpin" charge usually reserved for mafia dons and drug cartel leaders….

As the verdict was read, Ulbricht stared straight ahead. His mother Lyn Ulbricht slowly shook her head, and his father Kirk put a hand to his temple. After the verdict, Ulbricht turned around to give his family a stoic smile.

"This is not the end," Ulbricht's mother said loudly as he was led out of the courtroom. "Ross is a hero!" shouted a supporter.

Greenberg sums up why the verdict was so quick and easy for the jury:

From his first pre-trial hearings in New York, the government's evidence that Ulbricht ran the Silk Road's billion-dollar marketplace under the pseudonym the Dread Pirate Roberts was practically overwhelming. When the FBI arrested Ulbricht in the science fiction section of a San Francisco public library in October of 2013, his fingers were literally on the keyboard of his laptop, logged into the Silk Road's "mastermind" account. On his seized laptop's hard drive, investigators quickly found a journal, daily logbook, and thousands of pages of private chat logs that chronicled his years of planning, creating and day-to-day running of the Silk Road. That red-handed evidence was bolstered by a college friend of Ulbricht's who testified at trial that the young Texan had confessed creating the Silk Road to him. On top of that, notes found crumpled in his bedroom's trashcan connected to the Silk Road's code. Ulbricht's guilty verdict was even further locked down by a former FBI agent's analysis that traced $13.4 million worth of the black market's bitcoins from the Silk Road's servers in Iceland and Pennsylvania to the bitcoin wallet on Ulbricht laptop…….

Despite the case's grim outcome for Ulbricht, his defense team seemed throughout the trial to be laying the grounds for an appeal. His lead attorney Joshua Dratel called for a mistrial no less than five times, and was rejected by the judge each time. Dratel's protests began with pre-trial motions to preclude a large portion of the prosecution's evidence based on what he described as an illegal, warrantless hack of the Silk Road's Icelandic server by FBI investigators seeking to locate the computer despite its use of the Tor anonymity software. As the trial began, Dratel butted heads with the prosecution and judge again on the issue of cross-examining a Department of Homeland Security witness on the agency's alternative suspects in the case, including bitcoin mogul and Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles. And in the last days of the trial, Dratel strongly objected again to a decision by the judge to disallow two of the defense's expert witnesses based on a lack of qualifications.

Why Greenberg think the feds may have won a battle in a largely fruitless war against online drug sales:

If the feds do find the administrators of the next generation of dark web drug sites, as they found Ulbricht, don't expect those online drug lords to let their unencrypted laptops be snatched in a public library, or to have kept assiduous journals of their criminal conspiracies. The Dread Pirate Roberts' successors have no doubt been watching his trial unfold and learning from his mistakes. And the next guilty verdict may not be so easy.

My blogging about the trial here, here, here, and here.

My December print feature on the rise and fall of Silk Road, the Ulbricht prosecution, and its possible dark implications for the future of anonymity and free markets on the web.

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  1. Posted twice. The squirrels strike a Reason writer!

    1. And now it’s fixed. No more double tap nut punch.

  2. Government: “This is what you get for not giving us the vig, kid.”

  3. And like the top comment at Wired says:

    The judge’s refusal to at least create a fair trial is an embarrassment, and just exposes the governments true agenda. You could tell that the defense realized quickly that they weren’t going to get a fair shot, because they stopped fighting the injustices. I mean what judge in their right mind, lets the prosecution read a chat log about a murder for hire when the defendant isn’t even being tried for that in this case? Yet claims that an official interview with DPR was only heresay and was inadmissible?

    1. The other kick in the nuts is that if nearly anyone here was on the jury, there would have been a mistrial.

      1. There isn’t anyone here who could likely even come close to getting on a jury. the prosecution knows how to spot a sheeple and differentiate from those trouble making non-conformists(that would be us).

        1. I was just thinking the same thing. If I could get on the jury I would vote ‘not guilty’ no matter what the prosecution had. Any drug case except where someone drugged an unsuspecting victim gets a ‘not guilty’ from me. I don’t really care about the drugs, I don’t use ’em at all, but the drug war is one of the worst acts ever perpetrated on the Constitution and the American People.

        2. This. They’d smell our Hit&Run;-ness on us from down the street.

        3. I have never been called unfortunately. I would have loved to have been on the jury for this case.

          1. The first thing they ask you if you get called for jury duty for a drug case is if you would be willing to convict someone even if you believe the law is wrong. You can either perjure yourself or you are out of there.

            1. No. You say something like, “I would follow the law”. The law allows for nullification, whether they like it or not, but you don’t have to tell them that.

        4. An assistant DA used to be my neighbor, and, coincidentally, he was widely regarded as a jerk. But his kids used to play with my kids, and I don’t impute the sins of the parents upon the children.

          Anyway, he and I met when both our kids were at a Chuckie Cheese birthday party. I mentioned that I was an engineer, and for some reason never get selected for jury duty. (My presumption was that the defense does not like engineers because they are too analytical and not swayed by appeals to emotion.) I was shocked when he said that he hated the have engineers on a jury because they’re too analytical and that they insist that the prosecutor literally prove his case beyond reasonable doubt. This chance exchange radically changed my view of the US legal system. These cocksuckers think that if they out-argue the typical public defender and get a conviction, they’re doing their job. Who cares whether there is reasonable doubt?

  4. Raw deal, but he sounds almost terminally stupid.

    I would have an encrypted laptop, not use it in public like that, and rig up some kind of instant kill switch (something like a switch between the battery and the PC if the battery connects via a cable bundle.

    Even just sitting in a corner with the back to the wall should let you see the approach and shut the damn thing down.

    1. After I read the part about what he was doing when they found him, my first thought was “This CAN’T be the main player behind silk road.”. I mean, I practice stricter computer security, and I’m not doing anything illegal.

      I’m even giving the guy the benefit of the doubt and assume the laptop was encrypted, but since the fuzz found it while powered on, they wouldn’t have turned it off, but left it running and then did a forensics data pull. That’s the best chance for cops to get data from OTF encrypted drives. I’ve seen no clarification on whether this was the case or not. But still, sitting out in public like that, being completely unaware that you might get pounced. and leaving a paper trail back home? FAIL.

      It actually seems kind of implausible. Maybe the defense could use the absurdity of the evidence during the appeal, by painting it as “Too stupid to be true”.

      1. It just all sounds way too good to be true for the Feds.

  5. Nods in a moment of silence.

  6. We knew it was coming. Still, fuck.

    1. It would’ve been so encouraging to just have one person on that jury engage in nullification. Sometimes I look at what’s going on and say, “can’t we get just a little bit of a win?”

      1. If you read the Wired comments under the one quoted above, you will be reminded why we won’t get just a little bit of a win.

  7. It’s heart breaking that the government will so casually ruin this guy’s life. After they sentence him, the prosecutor will go home and make a sandwich and drink a glass of something that’s not morally different than what Ulbricht sold. The most heart breaking aspect is that they do this to someone for victimless crimes everyday.

  8. Sad case. Is there any way we can move off the path we’re on?

    1. I don’t see it. If there is, I’d like to know it. The number of violent statists in our society is overwhelming. The really depressing part will be all the people in our lives who figure this guy’s life deserved to be ruined.

      1. Despite that number of violent statists we have legal MJ in CO and WA and coming in other states.

        There will be a bunch more Silk Roads and they will be much better run. Technology will frustrate our enemies.

      2. I think technology will gradually build an internet and associated world out of reach of government. What are they called, mesh nets, where packets bounce from one computer to another, all distributed and decentralized? The meat world will gradually become less interesting — it already is for music, movies, news, communication.

        Nothing soon, not a quick solution. But I wonder if in 50 years, the government might be stuck holding an old dessicated bag of obsolete control over obsolete infrastructure. Then their tax revenue might wither away, and maybe in 100 years, government will be much less intrusive than now.

        I suppose some things will be stuck with government control — medical care, say. Highways probably. But dams, maybe not, if home recycle units become cheap enough. Home power cells, whether solar, wind, or nuclear.

        A fantasy I’ve had for a while.

        1. I do not think it is a fantasy and I don’t think it will take even 50 years. You should look up ‘MaidSafe’ if you want a good idea of how to decentralize the internet, which we’d better do on the software and hardware level to escape Net Neutering. I think a whole bunch of technological innovation combined with competition/innovation in governance make our victory almost inevitable. Look up “ZEDE” too while you’re at it.

          1. Hadn’t heard of ZEDE yet, sounds promising. Thanks for the heads up on that.

  9. “When the FBI arrested Ulbricht in the science fiction section of a San Francisco public library in October of 2013, his fingers were literally on the keyboard of his laptop, logged into the Silk Road’s “mastermind” account. On his seized laptop’s hard drive, investigators quickly found a journal, daily logbook, and thousands of pages of private chat logs that chronicled his years of planning, creating and day-to-day running of the Silk Road.”

    The laws should change, but they were never going to have much success creating a reasonable doubt with all those smoking guns.

    Even if he loses on appeal, I bet he gets probation or supervised release before long–because it won’t make much sense to keep him in prison for doing things that soon won’t be illegal in California.

    Ten years from now, holding someone in prison for facilitating marijuana sales in California may seem as silly as holding someone in prison for an old sodomy conviction. As we get more of this shit legalized, they’ll have to reconsider some of his convictions.

    1. This is a federal case though, Ken. I think he ends up with serious time for no other reason than the feds see the threat of what he created: an unregulated and largely untraceable marketplace for 1. commodities the government doesn’t want you to have, and 2. all of it untaxed.

      1. Bingo.

      2. Yeah, the money laundering charges may stick, but they weren’t all money laundering charges.

        He may even become a celebrity cause–like Leonard Peltier. There’ll be a push to pardon him.

        1. I love your optimism and hope you’re right, I just don’t see it coming from either team representative of the Oval Office. What he represents through his creation and with every bit of accompanying attention to it is what both sides hate most: loss of control.

          1. I didn’t think I’d live to see the Berlin Wall come down.

            10 years ago, I didn’t think I’d live to see two states legalize recreational marijuana either.

            But here we are!

            1. Well, dammit, Ken, now you’ve pulled me back from the cynical abyss and I need to create another excuse to pour myself two fingers of bourbon!

              1. This is why the “Contract Killing Tax Dodger” angle has been parroted far and wide. Even if people change their mind on drugs, the image that he is modern day Al Capone was crafted specifically so that he wouldn’t become a martyr to more than the hard core libertarians.

              2. You need an excuse?

                You aren’t doing it right.

          2. Unfortunately the predominate sentiment among Ignorinati is that he’s an “EVIL DRUG DEALER” and “HE GOT WHAT HE DESERVED”.

      3. This is a federal case though, Ken. I think he ends up with serious time for no other reason than the feds see the threat of what he created: an unregulated and largely untraceable marketplace for 1. commodities the government doesn’t want you to have, and 2. all of it untaxed.

        This, shouted from the mountaintops.

    2. Or, obama could pardon him…

      1. That might mean he made a mistake, and the infallibility of Obama is like the very first part of the Nicene progressive creed.

      2. Pardon him for… creating an unregulated marketplace? Chances of that are… zero, carry the zero… zero.

    3. “because it won’t make much sense”

      That’s why they’ll do it.

    4. Did he not know about Tails?

      1. German public television channel Das Erste reported that the NSA’s XKeyscore surveillance system contains definitions that match persons who search for Tails using a search engine or visit the Tails website.

        So any of us who clicked that link are now in NSA cross-hairs?

    5. the indictment contains a long list of amts of drugs other than pot allegedly moved thru SR, so mj legalization won’t have much to do with this, alas.

      1. Exactly, the site was pretty much selling anything and everything. I don’t hear anything about heroin, extacy or LSD becoming legal in California.

      2. If some of the charges involve marijuana, and he was convicted to any extent for facilitating marijuana, then that should create some impetus for commuting those specific charges, at least.

        Even if that impetus just goes to popular support for commuting his sentence, there’s a ray of hope there.

        If Mumia Abu-Jamal got his sentence commuted–even after his conviction for killing a cop was reaffirmed–then there’s certainly hope for someone who operated a website.

        There’s still some popular support for freeing Leonard Peltier:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_vQt_v8Jmw

        …and Ross Ulbricht wasn’t convicted of killing anybody.

    6. Sorry Ken. He’s going to do life. I guarantee it.

      1. Doing life. DEF!

        if there is one thing the state can not tolerate its an unregulated and largely untraceable marketplace. Why? its an existential threat.

        The beast runs on money. Everything else is a distant secondary concern to it. Threaten its lifeblood (by creating such a market as oppossed to merely being a average Joe tax evader) and it will take you and everyone standing next to you DOWN!

    7. Read his interview with Greenberg, he more or less gives an ancap/crypto-anarchist dissertation (and had much of the same on the SR forums back in the day.)

      Even if weed is legal in CA, matching buyers and sellers won’t be.

      Yea, no way they let him out in any reasonable time.

    8. You must be kidding. He is going to a cage for the rest of his useful adult life. fucking depressing, but true.

    9. No probation for federal crimes.

  10. Monocles at half staff please.

  11. In other news Brian Williams is a dick.

    Brian Williams Has Been Lying About Supposedly Being Shot Down in a Helicopter In Iraq Since 2003; Now Says He “Misremebered” Some Details and Is “Sorry”

    1. Maybe Williams can get an interview with Hillary and they can reminisce about their “war” stories.

    2. Career: over

  12. OT: A few random thoughts

    If you drive over the speed limit, you’re speeding.
    If you drive under it, you’re impeding traffic.
    If you drive exactly the speed limit, that’s suspicious

    If a company charges more than another, that’s gouging.
    If it charges less, that’s dumping.
    If it charges the same, that’s colluding.

    Should cartoon mountain lions be forcibly vaccinated and prohibited from owning body armor?

    1. If you deposit more than $10k in cash, it must be reported b/c you are probably a criminal.
      If you make deposits just under $10k in cash, it’ll be seized because you’re probably a criminal trying to beat the first point.
      If you make deposits of exactly $10k you’re a smartass and will be harassed?

  13. This planet should be creating Ross Ulbricht’s for the next move into galactic fingering. Instead, lawyers slam a pipe against the brains of those who can literally think outside the square planet. Ross Ulbricht deserves better than this but then again… a bunch of wonderful humans will be beheaded by our ‘friends’ in the Middle East because they are sorcerers for thinking outside the boxes.

    Fuck this shithole called earth. Your fucking religions and lawyers aren’t happy unless the planet bleeds the blood of those they cannot understand. Go patriotism and the vacuum-skulled shit-eater called Jim Norton.

    1. THIS is exactly what started me down the road of libertarianism. Too many people are hung up on their own issues and feel the need to make everyone live by their “moral standards”, without any consideration of the pain and suffering they will subject people to to accomplish this.

    2. wonderful humans will be beheaded by our ‘friends’ in the Middle East because they are sorcerers for thinking outside the boxes.

      That’s nothing. A Saudi Arabian man shot his daughter in the face for chatting with a man on Facebook. He wasn’t charged with a crime because his filthy harlot spawn had it coming for bringing dishonor upon his family, and the only reason we even know about it is because a Saudi cleric used this shooting as an example of the ‘strife’ created by Facebook.

      And now we’re sending $150,000 to the Saudi embassy so that we can have a cultural exchange via poetry readings.

      Personally, I’d rather the Saudi’s adopt our cultural aversion to shooting their children in the face instead of just reading a little Robert Frost.

      1. Personally, I’d rather the Saudi’s adopt our cultural aversion to shooting their children in the face instead of just reading a little Robert Frost.

        A most lucid logic that is impossible to argue with, Irish.

        However, the killing of offspring over religious bullshit seems to be pretty fucking popular in those places where the planet’s oldest structures exist.

        Old religions are vile killing places.

    3. the vacuum-skulled shit-eater called Jim Norton.

      Hmmm… Does this mean you are or are not a fan?

  14. Can someone give me a quick-and-dirty education in the issues of this case without me having to look it up myself?

    1. You are already a very dirty lowly creature that does quickies in the dark prisms of impressionism. God that reads like a super rich tea I will never be able to buy. Just fuck me.

      Notorious GKC in a teabag of leaves created from Renoir and Manet bones… Sip the light, bitches.

      1. So AG now that Silk Road is toast where are you getting your drugs?

        1. AG is the dark lord behind the dark lord behind Silk Road.

        2. Well that is an interesting surmise. Where are you going get the wicked for your skin, wicked Skin? Things roll, brosephus.

      2. Hey, AG, it’s a good thing for you that I can’t understand your insults, or you’d be in big trouble.

        1. Yes, because you are a lovely iconoclast. And you know this being the thing you are.

      3. You are already a very dirty lowly creature that does quickies in the dark prisms of impressionism. God that reads like a super rich tea I will never be able to buy. Just fuck me.

        Notorious GKC in a teabag of leaves created from Renoir and Manet bones… Sip the light, bitches.

        This is the greatest comment I’ve ever read.

        It should be framed and placed in the Louvre.

        1. I should sip an Irish. A deep, svelte centuries-old Irish. Mystical and magic. Voodoo tea leaves from Assam and Sri Lanka. Jarring and haunting. The Irish magic shroom as an aside is a complicated trip. Not a bad trip just fucking complicated. The Irish are complex and muscular.

  15. He made a strategic error by not admitting in pre-trial proceedings that he was the owner/operator of the site — the evidence was overwhelming that he was — which prevented him from launching an effective 4th Amendment challenge to much of the evidence the government seized and used against him. Instead, he tried to hang his reasonable doubt on the laughable theory that the MtGox operator may have been DPR (yeah, the investigator apparently thought that was the case for a while… that’s relevant how?).

    He’ll lose on appeal.

    That said, the laws should be changed.

  16. The extraordinarily short time the jury spent deliberating for a trial of this length and density demonstrates that these elements had a devastating effect at trial.

    The judge simply streamlined deliberations for the jury.

    Remember when that Missoula judge couldn’t seat a jury in a marijuana case because the potential jurors refused to entertain the notion of convicting a guy for tiny amount of weed? I know this isn’t that, but where are those kinds of people?

    1. In Missoula.

  17. We may test the hypothesis that the State is largely interested in protecting itself rather than its subjects by asking: which category of
    crimes does the State pursue and punish most intensely?those against private citizens or those against itself? The gravest crimes in the State’s lexicon are almost invariably not invasions of private person or property, but dangers to its own contentment, for example, treason, desertion of a soldier to the enemy, failure to register for the draft, subversion and subversive conspiracy, assassination of rulers and such economic crimes against the State as counterfeiting its money or evasion of its income tax. Or compare the degree of zeal devoted to pursuing the man who assaults a policeman, with the attention that the State pays to the assault of an ordinary citizen. Yet, curiously, the State’s openly assigned priority to its own defense against the public strikes few people as inconsistent with its presumed raison d’etre.

    -Murray Rothbard, Anatomy of the State

    1. Well, yes.

      This America is intended for benefice by those most simple and collegiate but those who can do math and utilize the extended brain the state actually exists to USE the simple and collegiate for the administration of false math upon the most granular and reductive.

  18. Meanwhile in England multi-culturalism continues to move along swimmingly.

    Antisemitic attacks in UK at highest level ever recorded

    1. “The people of a nation have no right to defend themselves from barbarian invasion. The subjective preferences of barbarians are no better than those of the civilized West.”

      /open borders libertardians

      1. Strawman lies and bullshit. There’s nothing in the story linking this to immigration.

  19. Twee hipster sings folk song about how people who want to stop sexist video games are nothing like Jack Thompson.

    Listen to twenty-five seconds, then make sure to comment so we know you didn’t kill yourself.

    1. Hmm, it’s not as bad as “Water Fountain”, but still insufferable.

      Hard to top this as bad songs go:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItMJtA8vfpw

      1. I think I found Agile Cyborg:

        I want that sung at every funeral I can think of. WOW, these singers really cook with the BLOOD OF JESUS dripping down heir panties…. LORD, I love this sauce.

  20. These drug laws are pure evil. The insanity of it all is overwhelming.

  21. If the feds do find the administrators of the next generation of dark web drug sites, as they found Ulbricht, don’t expect those online drug lords to let their unencrypted laptops be snatched in a public library, or to have kept assiduous journals of their criminal conspiracies.

    Tradecraft, tradecraft, tradecraft, motherfuckers. Learn it.

  22. Good–The commentariat over at HuffPo are as visibly upset about this as we are.
    Bad–None have made the connection that this was completely the doing of Obama’s DOJ.

    1. Would Boosh DOJ been more conciliatory?

      Would Clinton DOJ been more conciliatory?

      Would that fucking Wrinkled ass shit of a human being super old Boosh be more conciliatory?

      Would the wrung-out towel called simple-minded Reagan be more conciliatory?

      Obama’s DOJ is old politics in modern times. Obama, the young black man with great ideas failed. Old, deep politics always prevail.

      The old, dark, money owns the nations. Crusty, boring, tired… but mean. Vicious.

      Be Careful America… old money can end the ride… here… We are young. And unless great young minds understand what is happening to us we can fail and the old money that has prevailed for hundreds will prevail over our future…

      you don’t need Berkeley or Harvard to grasp this.

      1. Most of the “great young minds” I know want Net Neutrality because Comcast. Their argument kind of peters out after that.

        Present company excepted, of course.

      2. What great ideas did Obama possess? I remember lots of posturing, image-making and empty phrases that could be interpreted as you like, but I don’t remember any ideas. In fact, I think that was pretty much the entire point – Build an empty vessel into which everyone could pour their hopes and dreams.

  23. Depressing. But yes, this is a stepping stone to it never happening again.

  24. My last pay check was $ 9500 working 10 hours a week online. My Friend’s has been averaging 14k for months now and she works about 21 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out
    OPEN THIS LINK IN YOUR BROWSER,,,,
    ????? http://www.Workvalt.Com

  25. I can’t even focus on work today. I just keep wishing there was something any of us could do to help this guy.

    1. Exactly. How can we get on the jury next time? It’s not a jury of his peers if everyone is over 30.

      Everyone online seems upset yet some people who know nothing about what he did just convicted him.

      I’m not sure their hearts pump blood like yours and mine.

      Next time Ross defends himself with a full account of what actually happened including information from freeway rick ross, George Jung, Carl hart, and relevant information on medical cannabis, MDMA, LSD, shrooms, etc and information on Chewbacca, and we acquit.

      The 21st century is here.

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