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Digital Citizens, Saturday, February 7, 2015
The Ross Ulbricht / Silk Road trial had it all - emoji's, drugs, and confused jurors just to name a few. Check out our top 5 takeaways from the trial below. 
  1. The emoji defense is not the 21st century version of the Twinkie defense: while new research shows there may be benefits to frequent use of emoji  it will not yet sway a jury (especially a jury weighing the emojis against proof the FBI found you the world’s largest online DarkNet drug den).  However, Judge Katherine Forrest’s decision to allow emoticons  saying they should be considered part of the content of Ulbricht’s emails could important in some other case down the road.  There is almost certainly a hacker somewhere who has started sprinkling texts with misleading smiley faces that could help in a future legal defense.
  2. Jurors will work through a labyrinth of a technical mumbo-jumbo:  During arguments, some jurors reportedly needed help understanding terms and references to 21st century technology ranging from bitcoin to codebase to IRL (or “In Real Life”). When Judge Forrest suggested putting together a glossary to help jurors, Ulbricht Defense Attorney Josh Dratel objected, saying: “Obviously, I’m not inclined to help the government explain its case to the jury.” There was no cloud of confusion that could trump the proof the FBI found showing Ulbricht operating the world’s largest online DarkNet drug den.
  3. Paranoid DarkNet conspiracies come to life: When Homeland Security agent Jared Deryeghiayan testified that he had infiltrated the Silk Road nearly two years before Ross Ulbricht’s arrest, he validated conspiracy theories that have been circulating on DarkNet chat forums since the Silk Road launched. Just short of Dread Pirate Roberts himself being a federal agent, and the site an enormous honeypot designed to draw in criminals (both were popular theories at one point), this scenario is what many users dreaded. Now proven true, it will only elevate the highest levels of paranoia (perhaps some chemically induced) of DarkNet drug sellers and users, which is really saying something.
  4. A bad precedent for anonymous criminals: Judge Forrest dismissed the defense’s pre-trial motion to suppress evidence that hinged on the argument that law enforcement had violated Ulbricht’s Fourth Amendment rights by hacking into the server he had rented in Iceland. Judge Forrest argued that even if the FBI did hack the Silk Road server, Ulbricht hadn’t sufficiently demonstrated that the server belonged to him, and thus can’t claim that his privacy rights were violated by its search. Essentially, the anonymity that allowed Ulbricht to hide the Silk Road’s servers and make millions cost him his best defense at trial and, ultimately, at least the next 30 years of his life behind bars.
  5. The legend of Ross Ulbricht will live on - now that he’s been found guilty, the movies, books, and other media (including tributes those who doubt the evidence showing Ulbricht was operating the world’s largest online DarkNet drug den) are coming… get ready.
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