“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 seizures of internet traffic
- Unprosecuted, unproven allegations of murder-for- hire used against Ross
- Two corrupt federal investigators, now in prison, hidden from the jury
- 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.”
– Drug Policy Alliance / LEAP Supreme Court amicus brief
The “Hit” that Never Happened
The prosecution alleged that Ross planned murders-for-hire, but never charged him. Ross denied the allegation, those who know him don’t believe it; and even Curtis Green, one of the alleged targets, 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, based on constitutional violations in the investigation and at sentencing. The petition was supported by 21 organizations in five amicus briefs. As of May 2018, the Court has not rejected the petition and is expected to hold it pending its decision in another important Fourth Amendment case, Carpenter v. U.S.
The petition presents two important questions with broad significance impacting Fourth and Sixth Amendment protections:
- If the warrantless seizure of an individual’s Internet traffic information without probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment.
- If 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.