Jury balks at defense assertion that defendant was the "fall guy."
Guilty on 7 counts of Cybercrime. Bye Bye Dread Pirate Roberts...
NEW YORK—A jury on Wednesday convicted Ross Ulbricht on federal charges accusing him of being the mastermind behind the online drug bazaar Silk Road, where hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal goods were traded before law enforcement shuttered the site in late 2013.
The jury of twelve reached its guilty verdicts on all seven counts after deliberating less than four hours. Ulbricht faces up to life in prison. He'll be sentenced at a separate proceeding in a few months.
The seven charges include three drug counts: distributing or aiding and abetting the distribution of narcotics, distributing narcotics or aiding and abetting distribution over the Internet, and conspiracy to violate narcotics laws. He was also convicted on a fourth count of conspiracy to run a "continuing criminal enterprise," which involves supervising at least five other people in an organization. He was also convicted on conspiracy charges for computer hacking, distributing false identification, and money laundering.
The verdict was handed up to US District Judge Katherine Forrest in a manila envelope. She gave it to her court clerk, who read it out. The judge then polled each juror, asking them to verbally concur in the verdict.
As the verdict was read, Ulbricht's father Kirk Ulbricht held his head. Midway through the reading, Ulbricht turned to face his family and friends, who filled about two rows of courtroom benches. After it was read, Ulbricht was taken out of the room by the same two federal marshals who led him in each day of the trial.
"It's not the end," Ulbricht's mother, Lyn Ulbricht, said to her son as he was escorted from the courtroom. Several other relatives in front rows simply shouted out a quick goodbye. In the back of the gallery, a supporter shouted: "Ross is a hero!"
The 30-year-old Ulbricht, who the authorities said made millions of dollars in commissions, put on a brief defense of just three character witnesses during the three-week criminal trial. His defense attorney, Joshua Dratel, vowed to appeal. Dratel said the judge presiding over the trial hampered his defense by excluding evidence and witnesses, a position echoed by the defendant's mother.
"The defense was shackled," she told reporters shortly after the verdict was read. "It's not fair."
The trial proceeded over 11 days, spread over three weeks. During closing arguments Tuesday, Dratel told jurors during that the data authorities seized from Ulbricht's computer connecting him to the site could have been created by others. "The Internet is not what it seems," he told the six-woman, six-man panel. Dratel has said his client, who did not take the stand, had created the site but was the "fall guy" for the site's real operators.
Prosecutors countered Dratel, telling jurors that Ulbricht was the Dread Pirate Roberts who ran the site under that alias.
"There's no dispute when the defendant was arrested, he was logged in as Dread Pirate Roberts," prosecutor Serrin Turner told jurors. "There were no little elves that put all of that evidence on the defendant's computer."