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Silk Road mastermind Ross William Ulbricht pleads not guilty, trial fixed for November

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Ross William Ulbricht, the alleged mastermind behind an online black marketplace called Silk Road, has pleaded not guilty and has received his trial date in early November this year.

The 29-year old Ulbricht was arrested by federal agents in San Francisco on October 1, 2013, after a criminal complaint was filed against him at the Manhattan federal court.

Ulbricht is alleged to have operated and owned Silk Road, a hidden website that enabled anonymous users to buy and sell illegal drugs as well as illegal goods and services using bitcoins.

On Tuesday, February 4, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the indictment of Ulbricht at a Manhattan federal court on four charges, including narcotics conspiracy, money laundering, continuing criminal enterprise and conspiracy to commit computer hacking.

The Justice Department said that over 100,000 people used the online marketplace to buy or sell illegal drugs, goods and services. The hidden website is said to have had around 13,000 drug listings and vendors scattered around 10 different countries.

On Friday, February 7, Ulbricht pleaded not guilty to all charges filed against him. In the arraignment, prosecutors said that they have around 8TB to 10TB of evidence against Ulbricht and his Silk Road operations, which they expect to share with the defense and may also present in the trial. The trial is scheduled for four to six weeks starting early November.

In the initial criminal complaint against Ulbricht in December 2013, prosecutors referred to evidence collected during the investigation, which includes a record of all data on the website's servers and from Ulbricht's own laptop that was seized during his arrest in October 2013. Prosecutors say that Ulbricht's laptop contained a logbook, a journal and other personal records of building and running Silk Road.

Ulbricht has also filed a claim on around 29,000 bitcoins which the government had seized from his laptop. Ulbricht was asked how he can make a claim on the 29,000 bitcoins and argue at the same time that he's not guilty of running the Silk Road. However, Ulbricht's lawyer Joshua Dratel pointed out that it is not illegal for an individual to have bitcoins.

The defense will also be given several months so that they have enough time to review the material. Ulbricht will also be given access to a laptop at Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center so that he can review information used in the trial.

Dratel did not comment on his strategy for his client's defense. However, the lawyer hinted that he may attack the methods used by law enforcement agencies to obtain evidence. 

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