The friends and family of Ross Ulbricht, alleged kingpin behind online drug market Silk Road, have made an emotional plea by way of YouTube and funding platform Crowdtilt: Help us raise half a million dollars to defend the man we simply don’t believe was the infamous Dread Pirate Roberts.
In the YouTube video, photos depicting Ulbricht in happier times drift by as a chorus of voices describe his innate kindness and their bewilderment at the staggering list of charges brought against him by the U.S. government. They admit that they still have plenty of questions but allude to certainties of the heart.
“Ross is not a criminal mastermind,” one person says. “And Ross is not a killer.”
The video links to FreeRoss.org and a crowdfunding page with a target of $500,000. “We are a regular family taking on a giant fight,” Ulbricht’s relatives write. “It will take much more money than we have.” The page also offers a harsher criticism of the U.S. justice system and federal surveillance than the YouTube testimonial:
"We believe Ross is suffering the full force of the federal government for actions he did not commit. A few weeks after it was shut down by the government, Silk Road is back in business, again being run by 'DPR.' This is while Ross, a peaceful, honest citizen, sits in a segregated, high security cell, deprived of phone calls, access to a law library or, most recently, his attorney. In these days of government intrusion and overreach, this case is not just about Ross."
In its first 24 hours or so—and with 30 days still on the clock—the defense fund has managed to raise nearly $2,000. The donations will not be cemented, however, until the $10,000 “tilt” threshold is crossed. The money will be used “solely to pay attorneys’ legal fees, ancillary legal fees, and fund-related banking and accounting expenses.” Ulbricht’s lawyer is quoted as well and reaffirms the case’s landmark status: “There are many novel and important issues in this case that may serve as a precedent,” he warns.
A previous Bitcoin defense fund, Free Ross Ulbricht, has thus far taken in BTC 16.34, or nearly $10,000. The operator of that site, Mike Gogulski, who had previously helped to raise nearly $1.5 million for Chelsea Manning, linked to the friends-and-family page but gave no indication that the two pools of currency would be combined.
Photo via FreeRoss.org