Ross Ulbricht, the 29-year-old man accused of running billion-dollar drug bazaar Silk Road, gets his day in court today.
His case is going to trial some 15 months after plainclothes FBI agents nabbed him in the science fiction section of a library in San Francisco. "It's a day that anyone who cares about crime, punishment and privacy in the shadows of the internet will be watching," writes Andy Greenberg at WIRED. Why?
If Ulbricht doesn't take a last-minute plea deal and his trial begins as scheduled in a New York courtroom Tuesday, it will be the most significant case of its kind—in many ways the only case of its kind—to play out in front of a jury. The Silk Road anonymous drug market he's accused of creating was an unprecedented experiment in online anarchy and black market commerce. And Ulbricht's insistence until now on taking his case to trial means its fundamental issues will be argued in public.
Ulbricht, 29, faces charges that include running a narcotics, hacking and money laundering conspiracy, as well as a "kingpin" charge usually reserved for mafia dons and drug lords. The case against him is likely strong; prosecutors already have shown in pre-trial hearings that they caught Ulbricht with his laptop seemingly logged into a Silk Road page called "Mastermind," showing a detailed accounting of the site's activities and finances. They've also revealed that they found a logbook on his hard drive and a journal that allegedly detailed his day-to-day activities running the site. (Stringer Bell was right, by the way: Don't take notes on your criminal conspiracy.)
But Ulbricht's defense team, led by renowned terrorism-case defense attorney Joshua Dratel and financed in part by donations from bitcoin mogul Roger Ver, won't make it easy for prosecutors. We may see a lively, dramatic and precedent-setting trial. Here are a few reasons to follow it closely.
"Why the Silk Road Trial Matters" [wired]
And at Ars Technica, Joe Mullin is covering the story live today, too.
Some of my sketchbook from the first day of US v Ulbricht, finished paintings soon at Forbes pic.twitter.com/NakkygjKGV
— Susie Cagle (@susie_c) January 13, 2015