“The US government, my biggest enemy, was aware of me and calling for my destruction. This is the biggest force wielding organization on the planet.” – Ross Ulbricht’s journal
Wednesday evening the saga of Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road trial reached another milestone as the jury reached a verdict of guilty on seven charges related to distributing narcotics, fraudulent documents, money laundering, and continuing a criminal enterprise. Ulbricht has been on trial since early January for his role in creating the Silk Road online marketplace.
After deliberating for around three hours, the jury came back with a verdict of guilty on all charges. After the verdict was read the Ulbricht family was in tears and supporters in the audience yelled “Ross is a hero” before wishing him farewell as he was escorted out of the courtroom. The verdict comes after three weeks of evidence being presented by the government linking Ross Ulbricht to Dread Pirate Roberts, Silk Road’s main administrator. Ulbricht will be sentenced on May 15th in New York City.
Both the defense and prosecution presented their final arguments on Tuesday. The trial was filled with accusations of Judge Katherine Forrest suppressing evidence and unfairly keeping witnesses from testifying. Ross Ulbricht’s mother Lyn called the trial a travesty and stated that the jury was not able to see an accurate picture of the events because of Judge Forrest’s actions.
Internet freedom activists fear the verdict will chill the internet and possibly free speech. They argue that allowing Ulbricht’s charges to be considered under the doctrine of “transferred intent” will lead to criminalizing behavior of users of websites. Hypothetically, a user of a website could now make illegal statements or threats, or perhaps use a site like Craigslist to organize buying and selling of illegal products, and the owner of the website would be held responsible.
The Silk Road trial and the punishment that Ross Ulbricht received are examples of how the modern Drug War is being waged. In the age of new emerging technologies such as Bitcoin, the TOR browser, and the Deep Web, governments around the world are working non-stop to shut down these tools and to paint anyone who dare use them as a criminal. If technology is to play a role in freeing the hearts and minds of the people, and thus freeing us from tyranny, we cannot allow brilliant minds and powerful new technologies to be suppressed under the guise of keeping people safe from victimless crimes.
For more background please see this article.