Bitcoin: Bitcoin is Money according to Silk Road Trial Judge

The government and legal community may still be arguing over whether bitcoin can be defined as “money.” But the judge presiding over the landmark Silk Road drug case has declared that it’s at least close enough to get you locked up for money laundering.

In a ruling released Wednesday, Judge Katherine Forrest denied a motion by Ross Ulbricht, the 30-year-old alleged creator of the Silk Road billion-dollar online drug bazaar, to dismiss all criminal charges against him. Those charges include narcotics trafficking conspiracy, money laundering, and hacking conspiracy charges, as well as a “continuing criminal enterprise” charge that’s better known as the “kingpin” statute used to prosecute criminal gang and cartel leaders.

On the claim that bitcoins aren’t money, and therefore Ross could not logically be resposbible for money laundering, Forrest countered that neither the IRS nor FinCEN have any power to legally defined money laundering laws. She further noted that the claim is somewhat nonsensical given the use of bitcoin on the Silk Road exchange.

News on Bitcoin- The Statement of the Judge

Forrest writes in her 51-page order “Silk Road was specifically and intentionally designed for the purpose of facilitating unlawful transactions. Ulbricht is alleged to have knowingly and intentionally constructed and operated an expansive black market for selling and purchasing narcotics and malicious software and for laundering money. This separates Ulbricht’s alleged conduct from the mass of others whose websites may—without their planning or expectation—be used for unlawful purposes.”

“Sellers using Silk Road are not alleged to have given their narcotics and malicious software away for free – they are alleged to have sold them,” she writes. “The money laundering statute is broad enough to encompass use of Bitcoins in financial transactions. Any other reading would—in light of Bitcoin’s sole raison d’etre—be nonsensical.”

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While the comment from Judge Katherine Forrest is solely based on the case at hand, it does give bitcoin the recognition as a form of money. And while there is still much confusion and less conclusion, this is a step in the positive direction.

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