Remember how accused, still incarcerated Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht was trying to argue last December that he should get all his bitcoin back because, since it's not actual money and only exists on hard drives, it wasn't subject to civil forfeiture laws as they're written? Now he's been trying to say that because bitcoin isn't money, he can't be accused of money laundering and therefore all charges against him should be dropped. A federal judge basically laughed in his face this week.
As Ars Technica reports, federal judge Katherine Forrest issued a 51-page ruling this week in response to a filing by Ulbricht's attorney in which he tried to get four separate charges dropped. To the first of which, relating to bitcoin not being money, she responded, "'Money’ is an object used to buy things. Put simply, ‘funds’ can be used to pay for things in the colloquial sense."
She also refused to dismiss other charges related to hacking, conspiracy, and a technicality in the Communications Decency Act that would have exempted Ulbricht from liability for Silk Road users' illegal activities given that he was merely the "service provider."
Judge Forrest wrote:
Ulbricht’s alleged conduct is not analogous to an individual who merely steers buyers to sellers; rather he has provided the marketing mechanism, the procedures for the sale, and facilities for the actual exchange. He is alleged to know that his facilities would be used for illicit purposes and in fact, he designed and operated them for that purpose.
Ulbricht himself recently reached out to supporters in a quick note, with the photo above accompanying it, saying, "One thing I’ve learned since beginning my tour of the federal criminal justice system is that these guys are not all-powerful. They can be beaten and precedent can be set that will limit their ability to infringe on our rights." The note was published on the site FreeRoss.org.
Absent a plea deal, Ulbricht's case is set to go to trial in November. In addition to the illegalities surrounding the online black market itself, and Ulbricht's profits from it, he also stands accused of conspiring to murder six different individuals who posed threats to him or his business, none of whom were ultimately killed.
No matter what, this trial should be a grab-your-popcorn-type event, and as I predicted earlier, there was totally already an episode of The Good Wife this past season inspired by Ulbricht and the Silk Road, even involving a murder-for-hire.
Previously: All Silk Road coverage on SFist