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.