The clerk read each of the guilty verdicts, seven of them, while standing next to a large window that framed the Brooklyn Bridge in thin winter sunlight. That panoramic view will be one of the last Ross Ulbricht, who had just been convicted of multiple crimes, including narcotics trafficking conspiracy and money laundering, will likely enjoy for many years. The man who built Silk Road, the Amazon of what’s often called the Dark Web, took his conviction stoically, then turned and smiled at his family and supporters—young men and women who distrust the government at least as much as Tea Partyers do.
As a federal marshal marched Ulbricht out a side door, a young man in black dreadlocks shouted, “Ross is a hero!” Derrick Broze, a member of the Houston Free Thinkers, came to New York for this trial, part of a group of self-styled anarcho-libertarians who squeezed into the courtroom every day. In the brush-cut precincts of the Southern District of Manhattan, they stood out with their dreads, vintage threads, tattoos, piercings and smoky odor, and they provoked the judge’s ire when they distributed pamphlets to potential jurors urging them to declare Ulbricht innocent no matter what the evidence showed. They believe the government’s prosecution of him is about something much bigger and more menacing than a simple drug trafficking case. They say it is an ominous triumph for the agencies that are spying on all of us, all the time.