“This case is the birth of law as applied to our digital future. Watch it as a spectator at your peril.”
– Scott H. Greenfield, criminal defense attorney
Ross Ulbricht is serving a double life sentence + 40 years without parole for all non-violent charges associated with creating the Silk Road website. Passionate about privacy and free markets, he was 26 years old when he made the site. He had no prior record and no victim was named at trial.
Silk Road was an online marketplace with an emphasis on user privacy. Using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin on the Tor browser, people anonymously exchanged a variety of goods, both legal and illegal, including drugs (most commonly small amounts of cannabis). Prohibited was anything involuntary that created victims or used force.
“Silk Road was supposed to be about giving people the freedom to make their own choices, to pursue their own happiness, however they individually saw fit. [It] turned out to be a naive and costly idea that I deeply regret.”
– Ross in sentencing letter to his judge
The Silk Road Case
- Fourth Amendment privacy violations, warrantless seizures of internet traffic
- Unprosecuted, unproven allegations of planning violence (now dismissed) used against Ross
- Two corrupt federal investigators (now in prison) and more hidden from the jury
- Investigation of alternate perpetrator derailed by “rogue” federal agents
- Defense cross-examination repeatedly blocked
- Defense witnesses prevented from testifying
- Proof of evidence tampering
- Proof of multiple people behind the DPR accounts
- Parallel construction and other lies used to hide NSA involvement and convict Ross
The Double Life Sentence
Judge Katherine Forrest said she would give Ross “the severest sentence possible.” Restrained by law from issuing the death penalty, she gave him a walking death sentence instead. Ross’s appeal points out “grotesque disparity” between Ross’s life sentence—which is unheard of for a young man with no criminal history and all non-violent charges—and the sentences of other Silk Road defendants.
Judge Forrest used uncharged allegations that were never ruled on by a jury to justify her sentence, in violation of the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. She also violated the First Amendment by basing her sentence, in part, on what she perceived was Ross’s political philosophy.
“The district court sentenced petitioner Ross Ulbricht to life without parole, the harshest punishment our legal system allows short of death. That sentence depended on facts that were never found by the jury.”
— Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Drug Policy Alliance
The “Hit” that Never Happened
This smear was used to deprive Ross of bail, prejudice the jury, and justify a barbaric sentence. That this was never ruled on by a jury or proven in court, yet used to condemn Ross to a life sentence, was a major question in Ross’s petition to the Supreme Court.
On June 28, 2018, the Supreme Court denied Ross’s appeal. This denial failed to uphold internet privacy and fair trials, and also ended Ross’s options for direct appeal.
But we can’t give up. We cannot let him live out the rest of his life in a cage. We are now seeking clemency from the President. To that end, we have launched a petition to free Ross.
Within the first month, we surpassed 60,000 signatures, and now have over 135,000. We need yours, too! Please take a minute to sign and share the petition far and wide!
We Need Your Help
Please join us, not just for Ross, but against injustice and for your rights.
Since his arrest, Ross has been steadfastly supported by his family and friends, as well as many across the political spectrum and the tech community. Over 70 organizations and major figures have supported the efforts against the injustice done to him.