Timeline of the Silk Road Case

“The Most Important Trial in America: If you care about due process, Fourth Amendment protections against illegal searches, the limits of government surveillance, and Internet freedom, you should pay attention.”
– Nick Gillespie, Editor-in-Chief, Reason.com

I. Before Ross’s Arrest

February 2011
Silk Road is launched.
March 1, 2011
User “silkroad” advertises Silk Road on bitcointalk.org.[1]

June 2011
Chicago Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan starts investigating Silk Road.[2]

November 11, 2011
Ross tells Richard Bates he handed Silk Road off to a successor.[3]

February 6, 2012
Silk Road admin announces his name as Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR).[4]

July 6, 2012
Der-Yeghiayan identifies Mark Karpeles as the person behind Silk Road and Ashley Barr as DPR’s voice.[5] Karpeles becomes a law enforcement target.[6]

Mark Karpeles (left) – Ashley Barr (right)
August 3, 2012
Der-Yeghiayan tells Baltimore HSI agent Michael McFarland not to contact Karpeles or tell anyone he’s a target.[7]

October 2012
Der-Yeghiayan discovers McFarland informed the Baltimore task force, including known corrupt federal agents, Carl Mark Force and Shaun Bridges, about Karpeles, and they’ve been “actively working” him and keeping him under surveillance.[8]

January 17, 2013
DEA agent Force and Secret Service / NSA agent Shaun Bridges arrest Curtis Green, a senior Silk Road admin.[9]

Carl Mark Force (left) – Shaun Bridges (right)
January 25, 2013
Force and Bridges hijack Green’s admin account, use it to steal from top Silk Road vendors, and blame it on Green.[10]
According to the government, he and Bridges fake Green’s death in sting operation.[11]

March 2013
National Security Agency (NSA) works “urgently” to “track down” bitcoin users, according to classified documents provided by Edward Snowden.[12]

Tweet by Curtis Green, alleged “victim” of murder-for-hire
May 10, 2013
Bridges goes “rogue” with the help of AUSA Richard Kay and seizes $2 million from Karpeles.[13] He does this intentionally to tip Karpeles off that “the U.S. government had him on its radar.”[14]

June 2013
FBI special agent Christopher Tarbell “gets” Silk Road server IP address.[15]

July 11, 2013
AUSA Richard Kay meets with Karpeles’ attorneys who offer him an alternate target for DPR in exchange for Karpeles’s immunity.[16]

The Intercept, March 20, 2018
July 26, 2013
Someone from Baltimore office sells inside law enforcement info to DPR as “notwonderful.”[17]
August 14, 2013
DPR reveals he inherited Silk Road from its original creator.[18]

August 15, 2013 to [unknown]
Someone with high-level access to the evidence gathered by the government destroys several copies of conversation between “notwonderful” and DPR.[19]

August 15, 2013
Der-Yeghiayan swears under oath that Karpeles is DPR and submits a sealed search warrant for his email accounts.[20]

Forbes interviewbetween Greenberg and DPR, Aug 14, 2013
September 20, 2013

  • Using Ross’s email address “found” by IRS agent Gary Alford on Karpeles’s forum (bitcointalk.org),[21] and using pen register / trap and trace devices (pen traps), AUSA Serrin Turner gathers Ross’s internet traffic information without a warrant and tracks him down.[22]
  • HSI Chicago turn the case over to Southern District of New York.[23]

II. Pre-Trial

October 1, 2013

  • Ross arrested in San Francisco and put in solitary confinement.
  • Silk Road marketplace taken offline.[24]
  • District of Maryland issues indictment, including attempted murder charge based on evidence of corrupt DEA agent Force (imprisoned in March 2015[25]).

November 5, 2013
Ross arrives in Southern District of New York to face charges.

November 18, 2013
DPR logs into his Silk Road forum account for the last time, over six weeks after Ross was arrested.

November 20, 2013
Ross released from solitary confinement into general prison population.

November 21, 2013
Ross denied bail.

November 22, 2013
Silk Road forum taken down.

Illustration: Cointelegraph
February 4, 2014
Ross indicted in New York on four non-violent counts.[26] Indictment does not include murder-for-hire accusations.
March 29, 2014
Joshua Dratel, Ross’s attorney, challenges the indictment as unconstitutional and unfair.[27]

July 9, 2014
Katherine Forrest, District Court Judge, denies challenge to indictment.[28]

August 1, 2014
Dratel calls for evidentiary hearing to investigate how FBI Agent Christopher Tarbell found Silk Road server.[29]

August 2014
Ross finally given complete access to discovery totaling approximately four terabytes (equivalent to two billion typed pages).

DailyDot, Oct 22, 2014
September 5, 2014

  • The prosecution files memo opposing Ross’s pre-trial motions that suggest the NSA was involved in the Silk Road investigation, accusing the defense of conjuring up a “bogeyman—the NSA.”[30]
  • Tarbell testifies under oath how he found the Silk Road server[31] to worldwide expert skepticism.[32]

“Many of us believe it wasn’t the FBI who discovered the hidden Silk Road server, but the NSA (or other intelligence organization). We believe the FBI is using “parallel construction,” meaning creating a plausible story of how they found the server to satisfy the courts, but a story that isn’t true.”
– Robert Graham, well-known cybersecurity expert.[33]

IB Times, Sept 8, 2014
October 10, 2014

  • Judge Forrest denies evidentiary hearing and dismisses Ross’s motions to suppress evidence.[34]

October – December 2014
Court-ordered access to laptop and discovery evidence is repeatedly blocked by prison.

December 12, 2014
Defense is deprived of the witness list.[36]

Lyn Ulbricht: What’s at stake in Ross’s case
December 15, 2014

  • Investigation into Force sealed.[37] Judge Forrest precludes evidence of corrupt agent activity from trial.
  • Judge Forrest denies defense request that trial be postponed so jury can be informed of the corruption.[38]

January 1, 2015
More than 5,000 pages of relevant material about Der-Yeghiayan’s investigation dumped on Ross and his defense less than two weeks before trial.

January 2015
Ross moved to Metropolitan Correctional Center, Manhattan, New York.

Judge Katherine Forrest. Illustration: Reuters

III. Trial

January 13, 2015
Ross’s trial begins, presided over by Judge Forrest.[40]

January 20, 2015

  • Der-Yeghiayan’s testimony about Karpeles stricken from record.[41]
  • DPR interview suppressed.[42]
Protesters at Ross’s trial in NYC
February 2, 2015
Expert defense witnesses Andreas Antonopolous and Steven Bellovin not allowed to testify.

February 3, 2015

  • Evidence proving existence of multiple DPRs as well as Ross’s ignorance regarding laptop contents suppressed.[43]
  • Conversation between notwonderful and DPR suppressed.[44]
Forbes, Jan 20, 2015
February 4, 2015
Ross is found guilty on all counts.

“This ruling is bad news for future entrepreneurs seeking to build online marketplaces. At any moment…the U.S. government could tell a story that the online marketplace is part of a giant conspiracy by helping illegal transactions; and on that theory, seize the business…and threaten the founders with the prospect of years or decades in jail.”
-– Eric Goldman, Forbes.[45]

IV. Post-Trial and Sentencing

March 31, 2015
Corruption of Silk Road investigation revealed.

“The complete scope of what former SA’s Force and Bridges were able to accomplish with the illicit access they gained to the Silk Road website, and its impact on this case, has yet to be determined.”
– Joshua Dratel, defense trial attorney.[46]

April 16, 2015
Dratel files motions for new trial based on the fact that AUSA Turner hid corrupt agent Bridges from the defense and the judge.[47][48]

April 27, 2015
Judge Forrest denies motion for new trial.[49]

Corrupt agent played single biggest role in the most damning charges leveled against Ross.
May 26, 2015
Ross writes sentencing letter addressed to Judge Forrest pleading to leave him his old age.

“Silk Road was supposed to be about giving people the freedom to their own choices, to pursue their own happiness, however they individually saw fit…Silk Road turned out to be a naive and costly idea that I deeply regret.”
– Ross in sentencing letter to Judge Forrest.[50]

Ross’s parents after the sentencing
May 29, 2015

“Ulbricht’s life sentence won’t deter others from giving Americans access to the drugs they want. It won’t “protect” society. It won’t “serve justice” … It will just waste another life.” 
– Henry Blodget, CEO/Editor-in-Chief, Business Insider.[51]

Double life plus 40 years, without the possibility of parole, based on five non-violent charges.

June 9, 2015
Federal prosecutors issue a grand jury subpoena/gag order to Reason.com to turn over identities of people who commented on Ross’s sentence.[52]

V. Appeal

“If only 10% of what Lyn said about the trial and the events leading up to the trial are true,there should be a reversal. As a former prosecutor, I am appalled at what the federal government has done to Ross.”
– Former prosecutor, after seeing Porcfest speech

January 14, 2016
Appeal submitted to Second Circuit.[53]

Jan 28, 2016
Bridges arrested again trying to flee the country to avoid jail sentence.[54]

February 20, 2016
Edward Snowden publicly states that we should assume that the NSA was involved in gathering evidence in Ross’s case.

Ross’s 170-page appeal brief [PDF] is twice the size of a normal appeal brief
March 15, 2016
Appeal brief joined by six amici:

Edward Snowden: NSA was involved in Silk Road investigation
August 1, 2016
Defense replies to government.[55]

October 6, 2016
Oral arguments.[56]

November 29, 2016
Tampering of evidence announced.

“That my son—or anyone—would receive a life sentence based on such vulnerable evidence, especially when there is proof of corruption and tampering, is a travesty of justice.”
– Lyn Ulbricht, Ross’s mother.[57]

Motherboard, Nov 29, 2016
December 1, 2016
Log-in by Dread Pirate Roberts after Ross arrested announced.

May 29, 2017
Appeal denied.[58]

July 14, 2017
Ross moved to USP Florence, CO, a maximum-security penitentiary.

July 31, 2017
Petition to Second Circuit to re-hear appeal filed.[59]

  • First Amendment violations at sentencing
  • Unconstitutional warrants
  • Warrantless surveillance

August 29, 2017
Petition to re-hear denied by Second Circuit without comment.

Motherboard, Dec 1, 2016

VI. Supreme Court Petition

Overview with links and highlights from the petition and amicus briefs.

December 22, 2017
Defense led by Kannon Shanmugam files petition for Writ of Certiorari asking Supreme Court to review the decision of the lower courts.[60]

February 5, 2018
Petition for writ joined by the following amici (21 organizations):

United States Supreme Court Building

February 5, 2018

  • Judge Forrest denies unopposed motion to extend deadline to submit newly-discovered evidence.[61]
  • Judge Forrest denies motion for her to recuse herself.[62]

March 7, 2018
Defense Attorney Paul Grant files petition for Writ Of Mandamus to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.[63]

March 20, 2018
Defense led by Kannon Shanmugam files reply to government in support of Supreme Court petition.[64]

June 22, 2018
Kannon Shanmugam files supplemental brief in light of U.S v. Carpenter’s Supreme Court ruling.[65]

June 28, 2018
The Supreme Court denies Ross’s petition without comment.[66]

July 20, 2018

The District of Maryland dismisses with prejudice a five-year-old pending indictment against Ross, which contained the only charge of murder-for-hire ever filed. The charges can never be re-filed.[67]

Reason, July 25, 2018

VII. Post Supreme Court

July 13, 2018
The Ulbricht family launches a petition for clemency addressed to Donald Trump.

November 13, 2018
Ross’s petition for clemency surpasses 100,000 signatures in just 4 months.

April 4, 2019
Ross’s petition for clemency reaches 155,000 signatures.

April 13, 2019
Thomas White, the creator and co-operator of Silk Road 2, a bigger replica with more listings and sales per month, is sentenced in the UK to 5 years and 4 months.[68]