“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 33-year old first time offender, was given double life without parole for all non-violent charges associated with creating/operating the Silk Road website under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR). 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 rife with corruption, abuse, and violations, including:
- Fourth Amendment 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’ 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’ 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.
The “Hit” that Never Happened
The prosecution alleged that Ross planned murder-for-hire, but never charged him with it. Ross denies the allegation; those who know him don’t believe it; and even Curtis Green, the supposed “victim,” 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.
On December 22, 2017, Ross and his legal team of 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 courts’ decisions, based on constitutional violations in the investigation and at sentencing.
The petition argues that Ross’ case presents important questions of constitutional law, and has broad significance impacting both our Fourth and Sixth Amendment protections.
One question is whether it is constitutional for the government to collect an individual’s Internet traffic information without a warrant or probable cause. Another is whether a judge has the right to impose an unreasonable sentence based on allegations never brought before, or ruled on by, a jury.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
“The government is using this case as a Trojan horse to sneak in precedent that will eviscerate Internet freedoms and set the precedent for chilling new laws that would drastically change the face of the worldwide web.”
– Paul Joseph Watson, journalist
The Silk Road case is about much more than one man or one website. It will have far-reaching impact in the digital age.
The government uses high profile cases to set precedent and make bad law that we all must live with. The courts are grappling with how 20th Century law applies to the 21st Century, and what is decided in the courts now, in Ross’ case and others, will impact us all.
Important Precedents Include:
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.