Ross Ulbricht, the alleged founder of online black marketplace Silk Road, has been denied bail.
At the 29-year-old's bail hearing yesterday (21st November), defence lawyer Joshua Dratel proposed a bail package of over $1m, pledged by Ulbricht's friends and family.
However, after hearing from a Manhattan federal prosecutor, who argued that Ulbricht would try to flee the US, Magistrate Judge Kevin Fox decided to turn down the bail request.
Assistant US attorney Serrin Turner also claimed Ulbricht, who is alleged to have gone by the online alias of Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), might present a danger to society. He substantiated this by telling Fox that Ulbricht had transacted with at least two hitmen in an attempt to have six people murdered.
Murder for hire
The original criminal complaint against Ulbricht stated that he had paid to have two people murdered – one person who was attempting to blackmail him after learning the identities of thousands of Silk Road users, and another who Ulbricht allegedly feared would hand his details to the FBI.
“DPR’s communications reveal that he has taken it upon himself to police threats to the site from scammers and extortionists, and has demonstrated a willingness to use violence in doing so," the affidavit read.
In yesterday's hearing, Turner claimed Ulbricht had also paid $500,000 in bitcoins for the murder of an associate of the blackmailer, plus three people who lived with him.
Turner then took the opportunity to quash claims that Ulbricht had no involvement with Silk Road by revealing that federal agents found a diary detailing the creation of the deep-web marketplace when they were analysing a laptop seized from Ulbricht.
"The evidence in the government's view is absolutely overwhelming against the defendant," Turner said at the hearing.
Legal defence fund
Supporters of Ulbricht have set up a donation page to raise money for his legal defence fund. The Ross Ulbricht Legal Defense fund aims to raise $500,000. To date, $2,370 has been raised, but there are 29 days left for people to donate.
The fund describes its goal as being to "provide Ross with what every American citizen is promised: a fair trial". It goes on to state:
"In the USA we are presumed innocent until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. We firmly believe in Ross’ innocence and are working hard with the best legal team to prove it. But this is a complex, ground breaking case – and will be a very expensive one."
The donations will be used solely to pay attorneys’ legal fees, ancillary legal fees, and fund-related banking and accounting expenses.