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 first-time offender to double life without parole, plus forty years, shocks the conscience.

A commutation offers an opportunity, not only for justice but for political capital, as 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, Bitcoin and new technologies, prosecutorial abuse, unfair trials and a dishonest media.

Ross Ulbricht’s recent petition for clemency gained close to 135,000 signers in six months and is steadily growing. Many influential and well-respected groups and figures have supported 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 the country’s position as an innovative world leader.

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 the president 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.” Commuting Ross’s unnecessary, excessively harsh sentence would be a symbolic gesture that affirms President Trump’s belief in redemption for those who made a mistake, are no danger to society and have much to contribute.

Ross is now serving his sixth year in prison, not for selling illegal items himself, but for creating an online market, at the age of 26, where some others did. Now 34, 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 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 he wants nothing more than to make amends for his mistakes by giving back to society with productive work and innovative ideas.

Ross Ulbricht has widespread support
from the Libertarian Party and movement

Because of his libertarian ideals, Ross has widespread support from those in the libertarian movement. They understand that Ross’s motivation was philosophical—the well-intentioned vision of a young, peaceful idealist who believed in individual freedom and privacy. With a commutation of Ross’s sentence, the president would win over a significant number of libertarians who would prefer to vote for someone who recognizes their values and has shown he can also win an election.

At its convention, the Libertarian Party—America’s third largest political party—officially and unanimously asked the president to grant Ross clemency. Libertarian leaders such as Gary Johnson and others also support a commutation.

Ross also has the public support of libertarian and liberty organizations including 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 has the support
of a growing number of conservatives and Republicans

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

Ross’s clemency has the support of many conservatives and Republicans. These include Republican State Senator 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 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, including the public support of numerous Bitcoin 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 introduced to the world.

By granting Ross clemency, President Trump would instantly gain worldwide support and approval from this growing and increasingly influential segment of the population, most of whom are millennials and other young voters. He would show that he is forward-thinking, understands the importance of Bitcoin and blockchain technology, and does not support unjustly persecuting its innovators and leaders.

The president’s commutation of Ross’s sentence would also expose Chuck Schumer as one who hindered the growth of this industry, and who imprisoned its trailblazer for life while now promoting Bitcoin as an innovation. As a result, Schumer would lose support and credibility, especially among younger, technologically adept voters.

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

Silk Road prohibited the sale of anything that used force, defrauded others, or was involuntary.
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.

Politically, this seizes the drug war policy issue 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. Chuck Schumer instigated and drove the case; Mueller’s FBI, wrapped up by Comey’s, led the investigation; Schumer’s collaborator Preet Bharara was lead prosecutor; and trial and sentencing judge Katherine Forrest was recommended to the bench by Schumer.

Chuck Schumer has since sought political capital by introducing a bill to decriminalize marijuana, despite being responsible for incarcerating Ross and thousands of others through the drug war and the 1994 Clinton Crime Bill. By commuting Ross’s sentence, President Trump has an opportunity to undercut the Democrat position by sending a powerful message to younger voters that he, more than Democrats, understands the complexities of the drug issue and is willing to take real action to correct the injustices of the drug war and mass incarceration.

Ross Ulbricht has the support
of criminal justice reform advocates and those in the legal community

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.

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.


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

By commuting Ross Ulbricht’s sentence, the president will be putting his beliefs into action. This one act will garner support for President Trump from a wide spectrum of voters who firmly 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

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