Two years ago today was the worst day of my life. On that day our son, Ross Ulbricht, was given a double life sentence for all non-violent charges. Despite slander in the media, Ross was not charged at trial with murder-for-hire and it has never been proven. No victims came forward in court to say Ross had harmed them in any way. Yet Judge Forrest considers Ross so dangerous that he needs to die in a cage.
Ross once said to me: “Mom, a life sentence is really a death sentence. It just takes longer.”
Judge Forrest handed down what is essentially a death sentence to “send a message” to others who might build a dark web marketplace. This failed attempt at deterrence has, according to research, actually boosted dark net sales, which have more than doubled since the sentencing.
Four months after Ross was sentenced I came within minutes of suddenly dying of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, commonly known as Broken Heart Syndrome. It is caused from acute grief or stress and can kill even a healthy heart like mine. By God’s grace I survived with no lasting damage, but am a (thankfully) living example of how cruel and unrestrained treatment by the government can harm, or kill, not only the accused but also their loved ones. This includes the 2.9 million American children of incarcerated parents. Over two-thirds of these parents – like Ross – are non-violent, mostly drug offenders.
Judge Forrest’s excessive sentence was widely criticized, both in and out of the legal community. Former federal judge Nancy Gertner joined Ross’ appeal, along with Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and JustLeadershipUSA to challenge it. Criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield wrote in his blog:
|The mandatory minimum was twenty years. Twenty years… is a very long time… It’s a generation, to give it some context.
Two life sentences plus, a brutal sentence for someone “no better a person than any other drug dealer.” But then, his crime wasn’t being a drug dealer. Not even profiting off other people who were drug dealers. Not even facilitating other people’s drug deals. No, no, no. Sure, all that was involved, but that was not what bought him life.
“[A]nd in breaking that ground as the first person he had to be punished accordingly.”
As for Ulbricht, a twenty year sentence would have been more than sufficient to serve any legitimate purpose. In twenty years from now, no one will remember why they put some kid in a cell forever, as somewhere on the dark web, if not openly on a street corner, there will be heroin for sale.
Ross is appealing his sentence, along with his convictions. I never dreamed I’d be hoping and praying for our son to have a chance at a 20-year prison sentence, but that’s where this has brought me and my family. At least with that Ross would have some life left.