The (all non-violent) Trial Charges 

On May 29, 2015, Ross Ulbricht, a young first-time offender, was sentenced to double life plus 40 years, without the possibility of parole, on five non-violent counts.[1]

Ross is not condemned to die in prison for actually selling drugs, hacking software or fake IDs. He did not launder money either. He was not prosecuted for causing harm or injury to anyone, and no victim was named at trial. Rather, Ross was held responsible for others’ actions on the platform, despite established laws protecting providers from liability for their users’ content. See Vicarious Liability.

– Distribution of narcotics by means of the internet.[2]
Range: 10 years to life. Ross sentenced to life without parole.
Note: The prosecution charged that Ross “delivered, distributed, and dispensed”:
– 1kg or more of heroin
– 5kg or more of cocaine
– 500g or more of meth
– 10g or more of LSD
Yet, no evidence was presented to support this, only that others did so through Silk Road.

Metropolitan Detention Center,
Brooklyn, June 2014

– Continuing criminal enterprise, aka kingpin charge.[3]
20 years to life. Ross sentenced to life without parole.
Note: Element of charge is three predicate drug offenses yet, these were never identified, in violation of Richardson v. U.S.[4][5]
See Kingpin Statute.

– Computer hacking conspiracy.[6]
0 to 5 years. Ross sentenced to 5 years.
Note: Ross was not alleged to have hacked computers, and no computers are known to have been hacked with software sold through Silk Road.

– Fake ID trafficking conspiracy.[7]
0 to 15 years. Ross sentenced to 15 years.
Note: Charge based on Silk Road acting as a platform, whether or not actual fake ID sales occurred. No actual sales identified.

– Money laundering conspiracy.[8]
0 to 20 years. Ross was sentenced to 20 years.
Note: Charge based on Silk Road acting as a platform for sales of cash, gold, and other money. No actual transactions identified.

Ross looking at his parents during sentencing.
Illustration: Elizabeth Williams

All these counts are non-violent. The New York prosecution alleged that Ross planned violence, but never charged him for it. An indictment in Maryland included the allegations, yet it was never prosecuted and was dismissed with prejudice almost five years later. These unprosecuted, false allegations were used to deny Ross bail, smear him in the media, bias his jurors, and justify the draconian sentence he ultimately received.
See Making a Murderer.