Silk Road Trial Begins: Is Ulbricht the Dread Pirate Roberts?

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 12.01.03 PMBy Peter Montine

The case of United States v. Ulbricht, which is being called The Silk Road Trial, began last week in Manhattan, New York. Silk Road was an online black market where users could anonymously buy and sell various illegal items, especially drugs. It was able to stay anonymous and untraceable by operating on Tor (“The Onion Router”) network, an anonymous web browsing system, and by requiring all transactions to be paid in Bitcoin, an anonymous electronic currency. Ross Ulbricht, the alleged founder and kingpin of Silk Road, was arrested on October 1st, 2013, in a public library in San Francisco by Homeland Security Special Agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan. After a grand jury indictment, Ulbricht’s trial started this week in a Manhattan courthouse.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Timothy Howard began his opening statement by explaining how law enforcement officers caught Ulbricht communicating online using the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), the leader of Silk Road. Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s defense attorney, used his opening statements to argue that Ulbricht was not DPR and was not associated with Silk Road as it was when it was shut down. He did, however, admit that Ulbricht was the founder of Silk Road. Dratel stated that Ulbricht had originally created Silk Road as a “free-wheeling, free market site, that could sell anything, except for a couple items that were harmful.” However, Ulbricht later gave the site to others, who made it into the black market that it eventually became. Continue reading