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More Than Meets the Eye
The trial for Ross Ulbricht, the man accused of organizing the online black marketplace known as Silk Road, begins tomorrow in New York City. Ulbricht has been indicted on a laundry list of federal charges including narcotics conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit computer hacking and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, a charge generally reserved for mafia dons and druglords. Prosecutors are hoping to convince jurors and those following the case that Ulbricht is a violent criminal who should spend the rest of his life in prison. Activists and supporters of Ulbricht will be sharing a different narrative. An optimistic tale of how decentralized and anonymizing technologies such as Bitcoin and TOR will change the world for good. A story which casts the Federal Government as the villain and Ulbricht as the victim. While it remains to be seen which version will end up in the history books, one thing is for certain, there is more at stake in this trial than the freedom of one man.
Freedom vs. Control
Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), the alias used by the administrator of the Silk Road, has made it clear that his motivation with the marketplace was to help create a shift in the power structure of the world. In the only full length interview ever conducted by DPR, the Silk Road mastermind stated, “It’s really part of a larger transformation, driven by peer-to-peer technology and the internet as a whole. The people now can control the flow and distribution on information, and the flow of money...I don’t think anyone can comprehend the magnitude of the revolution we are in.”
It is this shift in power that has caused Silk Road to fall under the watchful eye of the State. Dread Pirate Roberts isn’t the only one who comprehends the magnitude of what Silk Road represents. Many in public office and law enforcement recognize that if people can exchange goods and services anonymously with anyone in the world, the control those in power enjoy over their subjects is greatly diminished. And when those in power feel their authority being threatened, they resort to what they do best, violence and coercion. In the case of the Silk Road Marketplace, Ross Ulbricht is their new victim.
Whether or not Ross Ulbricht is the person behind Silk Road site administrator, remains to be seen. Regardless, both Ulbricht and DPR are held in high regard with many people across the globe. “It is clear that he helped create a tool to allow peaceful people to engage in voluntary free trade with each other, and the world will never be the same because of it. For that alone, he is an inspiration and a hero.” That’s Roger Ver sharing his admiration for DPR. Ver, a Bitcoin entrepreneur and self described anarchist, has stated publicly that if Ross Ulbricht is in fact DPR, he’s a hero. If he’s not, he needs our help. Many familiar with Ver know that after buying in to bitcoin at $1 a coin and turning a considerable profit, he has savvily invested in bitcoin start-ups and graciously donated to those in need. When Ulbricht’s mother Lyn announced to the world that their family needed another $100,000 for Ross’ legal defense, Ver tweeted that he would donate $10 for every time someone retweeted his message. Over 16,500 tweets later and the Free Ross team had reached their goal. As pre-trial proceedings carried on, the Defense Team would come to find out that the scales of justice seemed to be tipping away from them.
A Series of Unfortunate Rulings
Unfortunately for the Ulbricht Defense Team, many of the pre-trial proceedings did not go in their favor. “I think we’re gonna need a miracle for justice to occur. I think Ross is already being treated incredibly unfairly.” That’s Julia Tourianski, a crypto-currency enthusiast and editor of the blog Brave the World. She believes a number of factors will make it difficult for Ross to get a fair trial. “The defense isn’t allowed to bring up his moral character, his philosophy, his political views, and the kind of person he is. Yet the prosecution is able to bring up the uncharged murder for hire accusations.” Much to the Defense’s dismay, the judge is allowing the Prosecution to bring up allegations that Ulbricht was involved in a murder for hire conspiracy to take out his enemies. While a grand jury was not able to get an indictment on the Murder for Hire Charges in this case, Ulbricht was indicted on said charges in the state of Maryland. This is a big setback for the defense as Judge Katherine Forrest has included the allegations as uncharged crimes which require no proof whatsoever, yet they can still be discussed in front of the jury.
Internet Freedom and “Transferred Intent”
Many of Ulbricht’s charges stem from activities that he may not in fact have carried out. Through a legal doctrine know as “transferred intent”, Prosecutors in the case are attempting to hold Ulbricht legally responsible for the actions of Silk Road users. Derrick J Freeman, host of Peace News Now, who will be present during the trial, believes that if Ulbricht is found guilty for crimes that other people commit on a website, it would have a major chilling effect on the internet, “It would be like putting the whole Craigslist office in jail because people use the site for illegal purposes. The internet is a beacon of free speech. If the Feds can jail you for what other people do on your website, fewer people are going to have websites.” It is possible that the precedent set in this trial will dramatically influence future legislation and law enforcement activity regarding website owners and operators assuming legal responsibility for the actions of their users. This case will effect everybody that operates a public website and the outcome should not be taken lightly.
Enter the Activists
Liberty activists and Bitcoin enthusiasts from across the globe are flocking to New York City to attend the trial and support Ross. According to DerrickJ, there will be three teams participating, “There will be peaceful demonstrations outside the courthouse with people holding signs, giving speeches, and giving interviews to the media. There will be people handing out Jury Nullification information to people outside the courthouse. There will be a team of media people reporting from inside the courthouse.” James Babb, a liberty activist from Philidelphia, is organization the jury nullification outreach. “A single juror with a conscience can successfully protect a defendant. They can simply vote not guilty if they feel the law is unjust or misapplied.” This is the power of jury nullification.” Babb and his team have taken to the streets of NYC for their activism we have surrounded the courthouse at 500 Pearl St. with bold kiosk ads. These ads invite the public to know their rights and google jury nullification. A complimentary pamphleteering campaign began on January 5th at the same location. The goal is to distribute over 10,000 brochures to pedestrians near the courthouse.”
With the trial, Roger Ver has once again shown his support to Ross by donating bitcoin to help fund activist’s travel and food costs so they can be in attendance to support Ross. Derrick Broze with Liberty Beat and BenSwann.com is one of those activists. “I plan to go to the trial and document everything, write articles, put out audio updates, and write as much content I can about the situation to help to my job supporting Ross.” Ver believes the more people that attend the trial, the greater the impact there will be, “By having people show up in person to speak out against the immorality of the war on drugs, I hope that others will be inspired to do the same, and together, we can help put this horrible part of human history behind us.”
The Struggle Continues....
Those close to the case are estimating it may go as long as six weeks. In that time there will be plenty of opportunities to show your support for Ross Ulbricht, Dread Pirate Roberts, and the idea that we own ourselves. To learn how to get involved contact BitcoinBelle via twitter or get in touch with Julia Tourianski at BravetheWorld.com. There is a Facebook page you can search for called individuals for ross ulbrich. Follow the live blog of the trial for up to the minute updates at thelibertybeat.com.
When the trial comes to an end, whether Ross Ulbrich is convicted or not, the struggle between freedom and control will continue round and round in a series of repeating revolutions, just as it has for centuries. But this time around, Thanks to innovative technologies like bitcoin and TOR, I can’t help but help think things will be different. People seeking to control others will have a harder time doing so and those looking to choose their own path will be able to do so unmolested. It may not be tomorrow, next year, or even in the next decade, but the cat is out of the bag and there is no putting it back. Governments around the world will try as they always have to put down those who challenge their position of power, but you can’t stop an idea whose time has come. And our time has come. So join us in the struggle and together, we will be free.
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