Double standard

Ross’s appeal states his double life sentence without parole + 40 years creates a “grotesque disparity” between Ross and other defendants related to Silk Road.[1]

The leading drug seller on the site—whose offense level was the same as Ross’s—got 10 years[2] and the largest cocaine seller on the site got 5 years[3]. The biggest methamphetamine seller got 3 years[4] (reduced from 6 years because of agent corruption).

In addition, Peter Nash, a Silk Road forum moderator and administrator when the site had its highest sales volume, was given “time served”—a 17-month sentence—even though his charges carried a mandatory minimum of 10 years.[5] Although Nash was involved with the site when five overdose 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’s sentencing, is a free man, released from custody after 13 days.[6][7]

The FBI in Benthall’s criminal complaint says:

  • “SR 2.0 is designed in the same manner as SR 1.0 and serves the same basic illegal function.”[8]
  • “SR 2.0 offers its users an almost identical user experience to that offered on SR 1.0.”[9]

Comparing it to Silk Road, the government called Benthall’s enterprise a “virtually identical” website that generated “millions of dollars in monthly sales.”[10] 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.”[11]

Benthall was arrested on 11/06/14 and released on 11/21/14

That Benthall did not go to prison while Ross is serving a life sentence is in direct conflict with 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.”[12]

Although the government says Ross is so dangerous he should die in prison, it freed Benthall after a mere 13 days and never prosecuted him. This flies in the face of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the Sentencing Reform Act.[13][14]

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

Read also: Sentenced For Uncharged Crimes