Political Advantages to Commuting Ross Ulbricht’s Sentence

By every measure, Ross Ulbricht’s sentence is profoundly unjust, cruel and draconian. The sentencing of this young, peaceful, first-time offender to double life without parole plus forty years, for all non-violent charges, shocks the conscience.

A commutation offers an opportunity, not only for justice but also for political capital. It has widespread support among divergent groups across the political spectrum. Ross’s case intersects many pressing current issues, including:

  • excessive sentencing
  • mass incarceration
  • the drug war
  • the blockchain and new technologies
  • prosecutorial abuse, unfair trials and a dishonest media
Ross Ulbricht’s recent petition for clemency gained 60,000 signers in its first month, to date has almost 160,000 signatures and is currently the fastest growing clemency petition on Change.org. Many influential and well-respected groups and figures  support his commutation. They believe that Ross is not a danger to anyone and, instead of being left to die in prison at great taxpayer expense, he could use his talents, vision and creativity to help maintain America’s position as an innovative and technological world leader.

By commuting Ross Ulbricht’s brutal sentence, President Trump would instantly gain the devoted support— and likely the votes—of many thousands of libertarians, those in the technology and blockchain communities, those against the drug war and mass incarceration, and many young voters. He would also motivate thousands of non-voters to go to the polls.

Ross Ulbricht is a hero to thousands
of libertarians

Because of his ideals, Ross is a hero in the libertarian community, where his support is passionate and widespread. Libertarians understand that Ross’s motivation was philosophical—the well-intentioned vision of a young idealist who believed in individual freedom, privacy and the potential for monetary freedom through Bitcoin.

At its national convention, the Libertarian Party—America’s third largest political party—officially and unanimously called for the president to grant Ross clemency. Libertarian leaders such as presidential candidate Gary Johnson and other individuals, along with libertarian and liberty organizations, support a commutation for Ross. These include: Reason Foundation, Cato Institute, FreedomWorks, Downsize DC, Restoring Liberty Action Committee, Competitive Enterprise Institute, R Street Institute, Students for Liberty, and Young Americans for Liberty.

Ross Ulbricht is a hero
in the Bitcoin/blockchain and tech communities

As a Bitcoin pioneer and innovator, who provided the first proof of concept for Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain technology, Ross has worldwide support from the brightest and most talented in the tech and blockchain communities and the public support of its leaders. It is widely accepted that, without his vision, Bitcoin and the blockchain would have remained obscure. Instead, they are a regular part of mainstream financial coverage, implemented throughout all industries, and Bitcoin is traded worldwide. JPMorgan Chase has even introduced its own digital coin using the blockchain technology that Ross helped introduce to the world.

The president has stated how important technological advances are to our nation. By granting Ross clemency, he would instantly align himself with the tech and blockchain world and gain worldwide support and approval from this growing and increasingly influential segment of the population, most of whom are millennials and young voters. He would show that he is forward-thinking, understands the importance of blockchain technology, and does not support unjustly persecuting its innovators and leaders.

Ross Ulbricht’s commutation would capture the support
of many young voters, countering the trend towards socialism among millennials

Ross’s values are fundamentally American and conservative. He believes in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and has always been a proponent of liberty and espouses free markets, property rights, individual choice and privacy. His commutation would attract the attention and support of millennials and young voters who admire him but are being seduced by the trendiness of socialism.

Ross’s popularity with young people is evidenced by his widespread support in the predominantly young blockchain/bitcoin and tech communities, anti-drug war groups, international student organizations such as Students for Liberty, Young Americans for Liberty, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and more.

Ross Ulbricht has the support
of criminal justice reform advocates

With clemency for Ross, President Trump would be lauded by proponents of criminal justice and sentencing reform, who recognize that Ross’s extreme sentence sets a dangerous precedent. These would be joined by those in the legal community, many of whom believe Ross’s trial and sentencing violated the constitution, due process and the right to a fair trial.

These supporters include: Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Drug Policy Alliance, JustLeadershipUSA, Buried Alive Project, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Human Rights Defense Center, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, People’s Law Office, and Students for a Sensible Drug Policy.

Ross Ulbricht has the support
of a growing number of conservatives and Republicans

Ross’s case is a clear demonstration of prosecutorial abuse, judicial overreach, and constitutional violations. Many conservatives and conservative organizations recognize that it is not only an injustice to Ross, but a dangerous abuse of power.

Ross’s clemency has the support of numerous conservatives and Republicans. These include Republican Congressman Steve King, former Republican Senatorial candidate Eric Brakey, former Republican Senatorial candidate Joe Miller, Assistant Secretary of Housing (under President George H.W. Bush) Catherine Austin Fitts, American Conservative Union Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, Foundation for Economic Education and Gun Owners of America.

Ross Ulbricht’s case shines a light
on the national trend toward decriminalizing drugs

Silk Road prohibited the sale of anything that used force, was involuntary or harmed a third party. However, it did allow consenting individuals to buy and sell drugs, most commonly small amounts of marijuana. A commutation by President Trump would signal that he recognizes the cultural shift away from the drug war toward rehabilitation and would politically seize the drug war policy issue away from the Democrats, who were responsible for Ross’s sentence both within the justice system and in the media, where an avalanche of fake news and outright lies smeared Ross in the court of public opinion.

Ross Ulbricht personifies the spirit
of The First Step Act

Ross’s case is a prime example of the need for second chances that the First Step Act aims to provide and that the president clearly believes in. As President Trump said in the State of the Union address of another first-time drug offender whose sentence he commuted: “Alice’s story underscores the disparities and unfairness that can exist in criminal sentencing, and the need to remedy this total injustice…America is a nation that believes in redemption.”

Ross is now serving his sixth year in a maximum-security prison, not for selling illegal items himself, but for creating an online market, at the age of 26, where some others did. Now 35, Ross has matured and expressed his profound remorse for this and any harm he caused. During his time in prison, he has proven his peaceful and compassionate nature—even at risk to himself—and his commitment to helping fellow inmates by teaching classes, tutoring and being a role model. Ross has expressed that he wants nothing more than to make amends for his mistakes by giving back to society with productive work and innovative ideas.

Commuting Ross’s unnecessary, excessively harsh sentence would affirm President Trump’s belief in redemption for those who made a mistake, are no danger to society and have much to contribute. It would inspire approval and support from the millions who believe America’s justice system and sentencing policies must be reformed.

CONCLUSION

President Trump has publicly expressed his support of clemency for those who have been treated unfairly or given excessively harsh sentences. He is also an outspoken believer in providing hope and second chances.

The one act of commuting Ross’s sentence will demonstrate that the president means this. He would gain support from a wide range of voters, most whom would not otherwise vote for him. He would win the approval of the many thousands who ardently believe that Ross Ulbricht—a young, peaceful, first-time offender who regrets his mistake—should be granted relief from a walking death sentence and given a second chance to contribute to society.

For an overview of the case, go to FreeRoss.org/case-overview