Ross Ulbricht's Defense In Silk Road Trial: Some Other Guy Did It, I'm Just The Fall Guy

from the good-luck-with-that dept

On Tuesday, the trial for Ross Ulbricht, the guy accused of being the “Dread Pirate Roberts” behind Silk Road (1.0) began, and apparently the defense’s legal strategy is to claim some other guy was the real DPR, and Ulbricht was just the fall guy. According to Andy Greenberg:

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.?

That’s…. a different argument than has been suggested in the past. It also seems like it would require a bit more evidence. And that’s going to be tough. The admission that he created the Silk Road apparently was necessary, as Ulbricht had apparently confessed that to an old friend whom the prosecutor plans on calling as a witness. However, Ulbricht’s lawyer claims they may know who the real Dread Pirate Roberts is, but, again, this seems like it’s a massive legal long shot. While I have many concerns about how Ulbricht was found out, and about whether or not merely operating an online marketplace should be illegal (leaving aside the question of whether and how Ulbricht participated in that market…), to argue that “some other guy did it” and then (conveniently) set Ulbricht up to be the fall guy… seems extremely far fetched. Greenberg’s summary:

The new operators of the Silk Road ?had been alerted the walls were closing in,? Dratel said. ?That?s what compelled the Dread Pirate Roberts to put his escape plan into action,? framing Ulbricht, according to Dratel?s telling.

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.

?[The Dread Pirate Roberts] is someone who studiously avoided revealing his identity to anyone on the site?This same person goes to a public library and uses a public Wifi connection?? Dratel asked the jury. ?That Ross is DPR is a contradiction so fundamental that it defies common sense.?

There’s no doubt, if the US’s argument is accurate, that Ulbricht was somewhat sloppy, but using that sloppiness as “proof” that he wasn’t really DPR, while admitting he had founded Silk Road and when he was found logged into the admin… just seems unbelievable.

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Comments on “Ross Ulbricht's Defense In Silk Road Trial: Some Other Guy Did It, I'm Just The Fall Guy”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Apparently there was a Forbes interview with DRP where he says he didn’t start the site, prior to the arrest of Ulbricht.
Plus the name.

“Bitcoin did more than enable the modern online black market, Roberts says. It also brought him and Silk Road together. Roberts isn’t actually the site’s founder, he revealed in our interview. He credits Silk Road’s creation to another, even more secretive entrepreneur whom he declined to tell me anything about and who may have used the “Dread Pirate Roberts” nom de guerre before it was assumed by the person I interviewed.”

So either he is DPR but didn’t set up the site.
Or he set up the site and isn’t DPR.

Or he conducted an interview prior to being caught in which he decided to make up the story that DRP and the site creator are different people on the off chance that he would subsequently get caught by law enforcement and then have plausible deniability.

So, which is more ridiculous?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is classic FUD-technique:

1. Create a nom de plume.
2. Have several people use the identity.
3. If caught, you can now present evidence that you couldn’t be the identity at a time where another used the name.

In this way you can literally get away with murder since the legislative system almost always operates on assumption of “one identity, one person” and beyond a shadow of doubt evidence.

Cryophallion says:

Not the real dread pirate Roberts.

Seriously, how on earth did we not see this coming? Of course he’s not the real dread pirate Roberts. The man he inherited the title from wasn’t the real Roberts either. The real one retired 15 years ago and is living in Patagonia!
I’m just waiting for him to offer the prosecutor to pick which wine is poison, and they drink together.
And constantly saying as you wish and winking at the judge when he gives his testimony.
I mean seriously, basing your entire defense on a movie is sure to be effective!

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike, are you saying an innocent person can’t be lured into a fake plot by fake people?

I believe Ulrich. I am sure there were powerful people behind all the criminal events, and that those people did lure him into a criminal scheme for which he had no desire to do from the beginning, nor the ability to carry out without their help. Sounds familiar?
Would you put it past our own government or one of its 3 letter agencies to take over the Silk Road in order to entrap innocent people, and its founder by pulling him into the schemes?

The only evidence that it could not have been the government was that it seems to have worked on such a large scale without any major screw-ups.

Imagine if the FBI, CIA and NSA got together to take over an “anonymous” international communications and financial network. If they haven’t already.

Remember, they used to call people insane when those people claimed the government was spying on them, and all their communications, and infiltrating their lives by setting undercover women into their lives.

“When you put on your tin foil hat, double check that the government hasn’t gotten Reynolds to build a non-metalic back door into its products.”

Another Anonymous says:

Re: Re:

We are all free to express our opinions on legal strategy, or any other subject, without official endorsement of our knowledge. If something wrong is stated, it is quite quickly corrected with supporting evidence. That is how we learn on an internet forum.

If you find a legal flaw in something Mike Masnick has posted, feel free to attack his statement with stronger evidence or better reasoning. Don’t attack the person, which accomplishes nothing. Then your statements will gain superior credibility.

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