“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, a 34-year old with no criminal history, was given double life without parole + 40 years for all non-violent charges associated with creating the Silk Road website. No victim was named at trial.
Silk Road was an online marketplace designed to protect user privacy. Using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin on the Tor browser, people anonymously exchanged a variety of goods, both legal and illegal, including drugs. Prohibited was anything involuntary that created victims or used force, such as child porn, stolen goods or violent services.
The Silk Road Case
The investigation, trial and sentencing were riddled with corruption, abuse, and violations, including:
- Fourth Amendment privacy violations, warrantless searches and seizures.
- Unprosecuted, unproven allegations of murder-for- hire used against Ross.
- Two corrupt federal investigators, now in prison, were hidden from the jury.
- Defense cross examination was repeatedly blocked at trial.
- Defense witnesses were prevented from testifying.
- Proof of evidence tampering.
- Proof of DPR log-in after Ross was in prison.
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’ appeal says there is a “grotesque disparity” between Ross’s sentence and that of other Silk Road defendants and drug offenders. It is unheard of for a young man with no prior offenses and all non-violent charges.
Judge Forrest used uncharged allegations to justify the sentence, in violation of the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial. She also violated the First Amendment by referencing Ross’s political philosophy, calling it “troubling” and “dangerous”.
The draconian sentence flies in the face of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the Sentencing Reform Act, which requires that a sentence be sufficient, but no greater than necessary. The judge never stated why the sentence was necessary. Read more…
The “Hit” that Never Happened
The prosecution alleged that Ross planned murders-for-hire, but never charged him with them. Ross denied the allegation; those who know him don’t believe it; and even Curtis Green, one of the supposed “victims”, has publicly stated he doesn’t think Ross ordered a murder of anyone. Yet this smear was used to deprive Ross of bail; prejudice the jury; and bolster 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, is a major question in the petition to the Supreme Court. Read more…
On December 22, 2017, Ross and his legal team at Williams & Connolly, led by Kannon Shanmugam, filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court, asking the Court to review and reconsider the lower court’s decision, based on constitutional violations in the investigation and at sentencing.
The petition argues that Ross’ case presents two important questions of constitutional law, and has broad significance impacting both our Fourth and Sixth Amendment protections:
- Whether the warrantless seizure of an individual’s Internet traffic information without probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment.
- Whether the Sixth Amendment permits judges rather than juries to use uncharged crimes to support an otherwise unreasonable sentence.
We Need Your Help
This is a long, hard fight. We are up against the full force of the federal government. We are not the family of a wealthy kingpin. We are regular people battling a Goliath. We can’t do this alone. We will not give up, but we have a steep mountain to climb.
Please join us, not just for Ross, but against injustice and for your rights.