Today was jury selection day at the very-important trial of Ross Ulbricht in New York City. Free Keene bloggers were out front of the federal district court in Manhattan, trying to get the word out about the insane penalty that Ross Ulbricht is facing if he’s found guilty at trial. Ross is accused of running the Silk Road underground marketplace and is facing decades in prison for it. Ross’ mother, Lyn has stood by her son and even joined the Free State Project. She has said that Ross will come to Porcfest in 2015 if he is not imprisoned!
However, getting him out of the cage he’s been in for 15 months awaiting trial is no easy task. The prosecutors are well funded and working within a system where they are on the same side as the judge. In the insane, inhumane US court system, jurors are generally precluded from knowing the penalty faced by the accused, as it may make them more likely to nullify a bad law if they feel the penalty is too severe.In a previous motion, the prosecution asked the judge to prevent Ulbricht from testifying about his liberty-oriented beliefs and they specifically mentioned wanting to prevent the jury from any possibility of jury nullification.
They are deathly afraid of jurors knowing about nullification. Indeed, according to Derrick J, potential jurors are being asked if they saw any signs outside the court. If so, the prosecution is dismissing them.
Several signs came from a heroic effort by Derrick J to help Free Ross that included liberty activists cranking out signage to bring for Ulbricht supporters, including:
“30 YEARS TO LIFE FOR AN HONEST WEBSITE?”
“WEB HOSTING IS NOT A CRIME. WTF?”
NH liberty activists have been doing jury rights outreach for years and defendants at trial in New Hampshire have been able to raise jury nullification as a defense, but this is federal court. No cell phones are allowed in. No cameras. Not even for the media. Just pencil and paper.
Guardian reporter Nicky Woolf, who came to Keene this fall and interviewed people, including me, about the police response to the Pumpkinfest Riots, took notice of the sign-holding this morning and interviewed Derrick J for his piece on the Ulbricht Trial from today.
Continue reading below for another pic and the text of the Guardian piece:
Protesters gathered at a Manhattan court building on Tuesday in support of Ross Ulbricht, whose trial for being the accused mastermind behind what was once the internet’s biggest illegal drugs marketplace was beginning at a federal court inside.
Federal prosecutors accuse Ulbricht, who allegedly went by the alias “Dread Pirate Roberts”, of being the owner and manager of the deep-web marketplace Silk Road. He was arrested in a library in San Francisco in October 2013, and charged with drug trafficking, criminal enterprise, aiding and abetting distribution of drugs over the internet, computer hacking and money laundering.
According to the indictment, Ulbricht himself reaped “tens of millions of dollars” in commissions.
He is also charged with involvement in conspiracy to commission six “hits”, including against a former Silk Road employee, using bitcoin to pay the purported assassins. No killings were actually carried out.
In court, Ulbricht, clean-shaven and dressed smartly in a dark blazer and beige slacks, sat confidently beside his legal team. Occasionally he turned to flash a smile at his mother, Lyn, who was in the public gallery.
Ulbricht has consistently claimed that he was not Dread Pirate Roberts, and denies all the charges against him.
Outside the courtroom, protesters had gathered in support of Ulbricht.
Derrick J Freeman, who had come from Keene, New Hampshire, to demonstrate outside the court, told the Guardian he thought it would set a dangerous precedent if a website can be prosecuted for what its users do. “If so, drag Craigslist off to prison,” he said.
In its heyday, Silk Road was a sprawling marketplace where people used bitcoin to purchase a galaxy of different stimulants, hallucinogenics, opiates and prescription drugs.
In July 2013 it was estimated that transactions on Silk Road could be upwards of $30m-45m per year, and the indictment states that the site had “well over a hundred thousand buyers worldwide”.
It operated on the Tor network, a web anonymising service originally developed by the US naval research center and partly funded by Darpa as a way of protecting government communication.
For Freeman, if Ulbricht is actually Dread Pirate Roberts, he is a pioneer of the deep web, and a hero. “He brought the black market online,” he said. “There’s no fear of drive-by shootings, or back-alley stabbings.”