Deep Web film
Ross Ulbricht is alleged to have told Richard Bates about his involvement with Silk Road Epix HD

'Start the Dread Pirate Roberts legend', a mentor of Ross Ulbricht told the alleged kingpin behind the Silk Road drug-dealing website.

The jury of the Silk Road trial was shown web chats from late 2011 which revealed that, following "12 solid hours of thinking," Ulbricht agreed on the pseudonym with Variety Jones, who is alleged to have acted as a mentor to Ulbricht while he ran the drug-dealing website.

According to the chats, presented by the prosecution, Ulbricht had told Jones on 29 December 2011 that two people knew about his running of the website, but "they think I sold the site and got out a month ago."

The latest round of evidence came after Richard Bates, a former college friend of Ulbricht, testified before the court.

In the film The Princess Bride, the character of Dread Pirate Roberts is a name passed from one person to another, fitting the defence's argument that several people ran the Silk Road website.

According to chat logs found on Ulbricht's laptop by the FBI and presented to the court, Jones said: "Start the legend now," to which Ulbricht replied: "I like it."

Entering the final day of its second week, the trial sees Ulbricht accused of being the Dread Pirate Roberts and running the Silk Road website. The 30-year-old Texan is charged with narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, money laundering, conspiracy to traffic fraudulent IDs and engaging in continuing criminal enterprise. If found guilty, he faces between 30 years and life in prison.

On Thursday eBay software engineer and college friend of Ulbricht, Richard Bates, took to the stand in the New York court. Bates said he gave Ulbricht programming advice between late 2010 and 2011 in relation to a project the accused referred to as "top secret".

According to Bates, in November 2011 a friend of Ulbricht's girlfriend, Julia, posted a link to an article about Silk Road to Ulbricht's Facebook page, commenting: "I'm sure authorities would be interested in your drug running website." Ulbricht deleted the post and unfriended the person who made the post.

'I can't shut it down, I've already sold it'

Bates said how Ulbricht then rushed over to his house and told him: "I can't shut it down because I've already sold it to someone else." Bates told the court he believed Ulbricht's story of selling Silk Road.

Bates also told the court how he had tried to tell another person about his involvement in Silk Road, but admitted: "I tried to confide in a friend of mine [but] I don't think it was communicated across. We were both drunk."

A year later, during 2012 and 2013, Bates said Ulbricht's character changed and become more relaxed. In 2013 Bates claims Ulbricht told him: "Glad [running Silk Road] is not my problem anymore. I have regrets, don't get me wrong, but that sh*t was stressful. Still our secret, eh?"

Back in 2011, when Bates had refused to offer any more help until Ulbricht explained what it was for, Ulbricht showed him the Silk Road website and described it as "a website where people can buy drugs," Bates claims, adding that he was "shocked and very intrigued."

Ulbricht's defence has had an uphill struggle this week, as a day earlier the prosecution showed the jury the contents of Ulbricht's laptop, seized by FBI agents when he was arrested in October 2013. The laptop contained a lengthy journal and chat logs apparently detailing how he had created and run the Silk Road website, which was subsequently used to buy and sell illegal drugs, counterfeit currency and fake ID for cryptocurrency bitcoin.

Silk Road is claimed to have earnt its owner millions of dollars in commission between early 2011 and its closure in October 2013.

Economic experiment

Despite the mounting evidence against him, Ulbricht pleads not-guilty. However, his defence attorney revealed during the trial's first day that his client had created the website as an "economic experiment" in 2011, but handed the reins away soon after due to it putting him under too much pressure. The defence claims Dread Pirate Roberts was a name used by multiple owners of the Silk Road.

Ulbricht is alleged by Bates to have asked him "very frequent" questions about the PHP programming language and server administration.

After Ulbricht revealed the SIlk Road website to him, Bates continued to advise on programming problems, such as in March 2011 when the site suffered a major outage. Bates had also bought drugs from Silk Road under the username 'melee', listing marijuana, ecstasy, psychedelic mushrooms, Vicodin and antibiotics as products he purchased from the site.

Bates was questioned by police soon after Ulbricht was arrested in October 2013, and after originally denying any involvement, he eventually confessed to aiding Ulbricht and buying the drugs; Bates agreed to testify against Ulbricht to avoid prosecution.

The trial continues.