What to Expect in 'Dread Pirate Roberts' Trial
Silk Road jurors will hear about murder plots, libertarianism
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2015 5:29 AM CST
An artist's rendering shows Ross William Ulbricht during a 2013 appearance at federal court in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Vicki Behringer, File)

(Newser) – The trial of alleged Silk Road drug market mastermind Ross Ulbricht begins soon, and it's expected to shine a spotlight on some of the darkest corners of the Internet. Jury selection begins tomorrow for the New York City trial of the 30-year-old, who prosecutors say was the shadowy "Dread Pirate Roberts" that made millions running the underground website, the AP reports. The trial is expected to last at least four weeks, and Ulbricht could face life in prison if convicted. More:

  • Ulbricht is charged with conspiring to commit narcotics trafficking, conspiring to commit computer hacking, and conspiring to commit money laundering, but the most damaging allegation may be that he tried to have six people who threatened his business killed. He isn't being tried for attempted murder, but prosecutors say the attempted "hits" help show Ulbricht was the site's boss. A federal judge has overruled defense objections to allow evidence of the murder-for-hire plots to be introduced, saying the "prejudicial effect is reduced by the government's stipulation that no actual murders were carried out."

  • The same judge has also rejected Ulbricht's request to exclude electronic evidence seized by government agents from his Gmail and Facebook accounts and a server in Iceland, saying he couldn't show his rights were violated, Bloomberg reports.
  • The trial is expected to reveal more not just about the "Darknet" where SIlk Road operated, but about how the government is trying to crack down on it, Ars Technica reports, which notes that it isn't entirely clear how the government found the Silk Road servers before taking the site down in 2013, although Ulbricht's lawyer has pointed the finger at the NSA.
  • The judge has rejected a government request to bar mention of Ulbricht's libertarian politics. In a Forbes interview from 2013, the "Dread Pirate Roberts" defended selling drugs. "People own themselves, they own their bodies, and it is their right to put into their bodies whatever they choose. It is not my place, or the government's, or anyone else's to say what a person does with their own body," he said. He also praised the possibilities of peer-to-peer networking. "The people now can control the flow and distribution on information, and the flow of money," he said. "Sector by sector the state is being cut out of the equation, and power is being returned to the individual."
  • Ulbricht—described in some reports as an "ordinary nerd"denies being the Dread Pirate Roberts, though their politics certainly seem similar. "I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and aggression amongst mankind," he wrote in one LinkedIn post.