MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal trial kicked off Tuesday for the accused creator of the online Silk Road, a marketplace that embraced bitcoins and anonymity to fuel the trade of drugs, hacking equipment and fake IDs.
Ross William Ulbricht, 30, faces seven counts of selling illegal drugs, conspiracy to hack computers and money laundering.
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, Ulbricht’s attorney Joshua Dritel and Assistant U.S. Attorney Serrin Turner spent nearly three hours Tuesday morning to weed through 90 perspective jurors after eight rounds of cuts.
The final jury boasts six men and six women, with three men and one woman as alternates.
Prosecutors said they planned to call 11 witnesses to the stand during the estimated six-week trial.
Many of those witnesses face charges associated with Silk Road, but swung a plea deal in exchange for their testimony, Forrest noted.
The feds say Ulbricht was behind the online marketplace that evolved into the black market with the use of bitcoin as digital currency, allowing buyers and shippers to anonymously sidestep authorities with illegal shipments.
Dreitel, Ulbricht’s attorney, said in his opening statement that bitcoin was “designed to be an anti-fraud currency.
“Ross is not a drug dealer,” the defense attorney said. “Ross is not a kingpin.”
The government’s first witness Monday afternoon was Homeland Security Special Agent Jared Deryeghiayan, stationed out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Deryeghiayan said he began investigating Silk Road in June 2011 after first discovering ecstasy pills that looked to have been professionally packaged in a “commercial-like vacuum.”
“The numbers were increasing pretty much every month,” Deryeghiayan said of the ensuing shipments of heroin, LSD and cocaine that he continued to seize, mostly from the Netherlands.
Several Ulbricht supporters protested outside the courthouse Monday morning despite the frigid temperatures in New York, and later packed the courtroom to show their support.
William Kostric, an activist with the Free State Project who came to the courthouse from New Hampshire, called Ross “a hero in the same vein as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Aaron Swartz.”
“He is a crypto-anarchist,” Kostric added.
Trial continues Wednesday.
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