Double standard

Ross’s appeal [pdf] says his double life sentence without parole + 40 years creates a “grotesque disparity” between Ross and other defendants related to Silk Road.

The leading drug seller on the site, whose offense level was the same as Ross’s, got 10 years, and the largest cocaine seller on the site got 5 years. The biggest methamphetamine seller got 3 years (his sentence was reduced from 6 years to 3 years because of the agents’ corruption). They were all spared any liability for alleged overdose deaths.

In addition, Peter Nash, a forum moderator and administrator on Silk Road when the site had its highest volume of sales, was given “time served” –a 17-month sentence– even though he had a mandatory minimum of 10 years. Although Nash was involved with the site when five of the six deaths were alleged to have occurred, this did not factor in his sentencing.

Even more stunning is that Blake Benthall, the admitted owner of Silk Road 2.0, a bigger replica of Silk Road and one of many dark net markets that proliferated after Ross’ sentencing, is a free man.

The FBI in his Criminal Complaint [pdf] says:

  • “SR 2.0 is designed in the same manner as SR 1.0 and serves the same basic illegal function.”
  • “SR 2.0 offers its users an almost identical user experience to that offered on SR 1.0.”

Comparing it to Silk Road, the FBI called Benthall’s enterprise a virtually identical website that generated “millions of dollars in monthly sales”. Prosecutor Preet Bharara also stated: “As alleged, Blake Benthall attempted to resurrect Silk Road… by running Silk Road 2.0, a nearly identical criminal  enterprise. Let’s be clear—this Silk Road, in whatever form, is the road to prison.”

Yet Benthall did not go to prison and Ross is serving a life sentence. This is in direct conflict with the requirements of sentencing law, 18 U.S. Code Section 3553, which states the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct.

Although the government says Ross is so dangerous he should die in prison, it freed Benthall after a mere 16 days. This flies in the face of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and the Sentencing Reform Act.

“A judicial system that eschews compassion runs counter to all legal, as well as religious and social doctrine.”
– Joshua Dratel, Ross’ lawyer.