Ross William Ulbricht denied charges that he ran a billion-dollar online drug “bazaar” and plotted a murder-for-hire, his lawyer said after persuading a judge to postpone a bail hearing until Oct. 9.
Ulbricht, curly-haired, clean-shaven and wearing a red jail jumpsuit with his hands and legs shackled, made his second appearance in federal court in San Francisco this week after being arrested by the FBI Oct. 1 at a city public library.
“We deny all charges and that’s the end of the discussion,” defense attorney Brandon LeBlanc told reporters outside the courtroom today after U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero agreed to give him until next week to compile more financial information for a bail proposal.
Prosecutors say Ulbricht ran the “Silk Road Hidden Website” and was known as “Dread Pirate Roberts” or “DPR,” after a character in the 1987 film “The Princess Bride.” Federal agents seized Silk Road, along with digital currency Bitcoins worth $3.6 million, and shut down the site Oct. 2. Prosecutors said in court filings in Manhattan that the site generated more than a billion dollars in illicit sales and took in $80 million in commissions in less than three years.
The prosecutors called the site “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet,” and charged Ulbricht with narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, computer-hacking conspiracy and money-laundering conspiracy. Ulbricht was also indicted in federal court in Maryland for allegedly trying to arrange the murder of an employee he feared would become a witness against him.
The narcotics charge carries a potential maximum sentence of life in prison and a $1 million fine. Ulbricht, who graduated with a physics degree from University of Texas in 2006, told Spero at an Oct. 2 hearing that he couldn’t afford an attorney; a federal public defender appeared with him at the hearing that day.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Luskey urged Spero today not to delay the bail hearing and said that the government opposes releasing Ulbricht under any conditions. He said prosecutors in Manhattan are “eager to have this resolved.”
“No combination of surety will assure community safety or guarantee appearance,” Luskey said.
While Ulbricht didn’t speak in court today, LeBlanc said, “We are trying to put together the best bail proposal possible.”
After questioning how a bail request fits with a murder-for-hire charge, Spero rescheduled the hearing for Oct. 9, at which time he may also determine whether prosecutors have properly identified the suspect.
At least a half dozen federal agents surrounded Ulbricht Oct. 1 near the science fiction shelf at a San Francisco Public Library branch, said Michelle Jeffers, a library spokeswoman. He didn’t appear to resist the agents, who led him away moments later, Jeffers said.
The criminal case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, 13-mg-023287; the civil forfeiture case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, 13-cv-06919, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org Pam MacLean in San Francisco federal court at email@example.com