In the excitement about the U.S. Marshal Service’s auction of millions of dollars in bitcoin seized from the Silk Road, the situation of its alleged mastermind has gained less attention. Ross Ulbricht, the man the FBI claims ran the Tor-obscured website under the name “Dread Pirate Roberts,” has been awaiting trial since his arrest in October of last year. Although he claims ownership of the roughly 144,000 BTC the FBI seized from him in the Silk Road raid, he has long insisted that he is innocent of the charges against him. In fact, he claims that many of the laws cited by prosecutors, such as money laundering, don’t even apply to bitcoin.
To argue such a high-profile case, Ulbricht needs the best legal team available. While his seized bitcoins are worth nearly $90 million, Ulbricht’s not-exactly wealth family has struggled to pay his legal bills. They’ve crowd-sourced his defense fund via the website FreeRoss.org, but received surprisingly little support.
Until recently, that is.
Over the weekend, bitcoin investor and advocate Roger Ver posted a challenge to Twitter. For every retweet he received, Ver pledged to donate $10 to Ulbricht’s defense. As of this writing, that tweet has been retweeted 16,800 times.
— Roger Ver (@rogerkver) July 5, 2014
Clearly, Ver didn’t anticipate such a huge response. This morning, he posted that the “donation limit has been reached,” making it unlikely that Ulbricht’s campaign will see a $160,000 donation. The size of Ver’s exact donation is unknown, although it is likely to be substantial. With over $80,000 in donations on the books before Ver’s tweet, FreeRoss.org may have already passed its $100,000 target.
Interestingly, direct donations to the FreeRoss.org bitcoin address have also skyrocketed since Ver’s announcement.
If found guilty on all charges, Ulbricht faces at least 20 years behind bars, with a maximum sentence of life behind bars. His trial is set to begin on November 3.