Silk Road founder's parents speak out

Silk Road founder's parents speak out
Silk Road founder's parents speak out

Update: On Feb. 4, Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht was found guilty. CNNMoney had earlier interviewed his parents as the trial neared conclusion.

The trial for Ross Ulbricht, creator of underground site Silk Road, is underway.

Ulbricht, 30, is accused of everything from money laundering to drug trafficking. Launched in 2011, Silk Road was an unregulated online marketplace where users could buy and sell anything from drugs to hacking tutorials. Payments were made using bitcoin, a digital currency that's difficult to trace, and the site used software that let users browse anonymously.

Over the past weeks, prosecutors have said Ulbricht was the mastermind behind the site. According to the feds, he went by the name Dread Pirate Roberts, a reference to a character in the movie The Princess Bride. They say they've traced around $13 million in bitcoin to Ross's computer.

Ulbricht's attorney Josh Dratel argued that while Ulbricht created Silk Road, it became too much for him and he handed it off to another operator. In court, the defense pointed fingers at former Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles. The testimony was later ruled inadmissible by the judge, who called it "hearsay," according to Wired.

In an exclusive interview, Ulbricht's parents, Lyn and Kirk, sit down with CNNMoney. Despite the government's case against Ulbricht, his parents maintain their son's innocence.

CNNMoney: Lyn, can you take me to that moment when you got the call? Ross was in trouble. What went through your mind?

Lyn: It was shocking because Ross had never been in trouble and has no record of anything.

Silk Road founder's parents: Unfair trial
Silk Road founder's parents: Unfair trial

Kirk: It was like a bomb went off in the house. We had no idea anything like that was coming.

CNNMoney: Tell me about the Ross you know.

Lyn: Ross is a stellar human being. He is such a fine person -- friendly, compassionate, caring -- and has demonstrated that his whole life. In the prison he gave yoga classes, he gave physics classes. We had a guard take us aside and go, "I just want you to know how much I think of Ross. He's such a great person."

CNNMoney: As his parents, why do you think he created Silk Road?

Lyn: He's very idealistic and I could see Ross thinking, "I want to create an open market where people can freely trade." Ross was the perfect fall guy because he's very trusting.

CNNMoney: The prosecution has traced a lot of money back to Ross. What do you think Ross's role was?

Lyn: I have no idea. I would like to see the evidence. We want to bring our own bitcoin expert in and they are fighting us ... we can't speculate on anything.

Related: Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht found guilty

CNNMoney: Let's get into the trial. Part of why you want to speak out is you're frustrated.

Lyn: The most frustrating thing is that evidence that is favorable to Ross is being suppressed. This came out in the cross examination for the first witness -- DHS Agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan, who was on the Silk Road case for two years investigating it. [He] never came across Ross' name but did ... pinpoint another name which he said was Mark Karpeles. He was closing in on [Karpeles] when another DHS agency [inadvertently] tipped off Karpeles.

The next thing that happened, according to this evidence, is that Karpeles' lawyer approached this DHS agency and said look, "You don't charge me with the financial crimes you're charging me with and I'll give you the name of DPR [Dread Pirate Roberts]." Two weeks later, Ross was arrested and Karpeles has never been charged.

[The judge later ruled] that much of that testimony must be stricken from the record.

Related: The Deep Web you don't know about

CNNMoney: What do you believe are the larger implications of this trial?

Lyn: You know there is a big issue of transferred intent here, which is, can you hold an alleged website host responsible for actions of the users on his site? If a precedent is set for that, many people have said it puts a crack in the door for the government to find something illegitimate on a site and be able to hold that website responsible for that. That will put a chill on the Internet.

CNNMoney: Who should be responsible? Because if you look at Silk Road, there was a lot of illicit activity going on.

Lyn: We can't comment on that.

CNNMoney: Is it possible there's a whole other side to Ross that you guys just didn't know?

Lyn: I think in 30 years, there would have been a glimmer among either us, his family, all his friends and everyone who knew him. It just isn't logical ... this drug kingpin thing. The guy was living in a very simple apartment, living a very simple life. So many things don't add up.

Kirk: I feel like I know Ross as well as a father can know a son. We were very close. We've heard how many chat logs and conversations between DPR and these other people. DPR didn't talk like Ross or write like Ross. It's just not Ross.

CNNMoney: How are you guys doing?

Lyn: It's very hard. Ross does not belong in prison. We will do what we can to fight for him and to fight for a fair trial. That's our basic right. Ross is a precious person. He has a lot to give and it would be a horrible waste to have him rot in prison. It really would.

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