Whilst several of you wouldn’t have heard of Ross Ulbricht, it’s safe to say that several of you out there would have done. Ross Ulbricht is the person behind the illegal online drug emporium Silk Road and was condemned to life in prison.
Before the sentencing, the parents of the victims of drug overdoses addressed the court and Ross Ulbricht burst into tears. He never wanted that to happen and he wishes he could go back and convince himself to take another path.
The 31-year-old physics grad and former boy scout was given five sentences, one for 20 years, one for 15 years, one for five and two for life, all are to be followed concurrently with no prospect of discharge.
The judge gave out the cruellest punishment possible to the man US officials identified as Dread Pirate Roberts, pseudonymous founder of an Amazon-like online market for illicit gains. The said purpose of Silk Road was to be beyond the law, in a world he formed over time. He was commander of the vessel, the Dread Pirate Roberts and he made his own laws.
Ross Ulbricht urged the judge to leave a light at the end of the tunnel ahead of his sentence. He acknowledged that his middle years would be taken away from him, however, he asked the judge to at least leave him his old age.
He was a converted man, not like the one when he founded Silk Road, he was a little smarter, a little more experienced and much more humble.
Even though the judge rebuffed arguments that Silk Road had diminished harm amongst drug users by taking unauthorised ventures off the street, no drug seller has ever made this argument in court, it’s a vested argument and it’s an argument made by one of the privileged.
Silk Road was formerly the biggest dark web marketplace for unauthorised narcotics and other services. In March 2013 the secret site listed 10,000 items for purchase, 7,000 of which were narcotics including cannabis, MDMA and heroin.
Silk Road had generated approximately $213.9 million (£140million) in sales and $13.2 million in commissions before police closed it down.
Ross Ulbricht was sentenced in February following a four-week trial on all seven counts, from peddling drugs and money laundering to maintaining an ongoing criminal enterprise, a charge normally reserved for mob kingpins.
He had gone so far as to solicit six murders for hire, even though no charges were ever brought.
During the hearing, the defence proposed that Ross Ulbricht was the victim of an elaborate hacking attack that left him seeming like the fall guy. Given the testimony presented against Ross Ulbricht, the delivery proved a tough sell to the jury.
Ross Ulbricht was apprehended in the science fiction segment of his public library, literally discovered with his fingers at the keyboard, operating Silk Road. He was logged into the Silk Roadmaster account, according to the agents who arrested him, and investigators discovered chat accounts and other proof on the hard drive that implicated him.
The judge took particular interest to study the reams of documents given to her in Ross Ulbricht’s support, and that whilst it was strange to do so, she needed to direct them in the sentencing, especially those who’d stated that an online drug marketplace subdued the intensity of the drug enterprise.
Following his sentence, Ross Ulbricht’s defence contended that the Silk Road was, in fact, a blessing to the well-being of its clients, particularly those who habitually used drugs. However, the judge determined none of the evidence reliable.
Silk Road created users who hadn’t sought narcotics before. Silk Road increased the market and places necessitated on drug-producing and violent regions in Afghanistan and Mexico that produce the poppies used for heroin.
The belief that it is harm-reducing is so precarious and is intended for a vested assembly of people who are using drugs in the solitude of their own homes utilising their personal internet intermediaries.
Two parents of children known only by their first names and last initials who had died whilst using narcotics purchased on Silk Road addressed the court. Richard B, whose 25-year-old son died of a heroin overdose, revealed his fury at the people who have supported Ross Ulbricht candidly.
Following Mr Ulbricht’s detention, they have endured the steadfast drumbeat of his followers and their persistence that Silk Road was victimless, and he firmly maintains that his son would be here today if Silk Road had never existed.
Vicky B, whose 16-year-old son died after taking a potent manufactured drug at a party and jumping from a second-story rooftop, the time since her son’s passing has been intolerable. She presented a photo of the last kiss from her offspring, holding up a photo of herself with her son Preston before the school ball where he died.
She keeps Preston’s ashes at home, her voice breaking. Sometimes she simply embraces them. Sometimes she gets under a blanket with them and tries to get warm.
But after all of this, the War on Drugs still continues.
Admittedly there are people out there that still obtain narcotics and will continue to do so, however, this guy made it something a tad more unconventional than that. He built a place where anybody could purchase and market narcotics and implement all kinds of unlawful activities and he did so with the obvious intention of being hidden and he should suffer the consequences.
At the end of the day people died because of this and we could debate that they didn’t have to take any kind of narcotic, he didn’t put a gun to their head and they had a mind of their own, it’s called free will, but then it could be contended that if temptation wasn’t there is the first place and all that, I guess it’s a matter of opinion.
There are all sorts of drugs out there, all of them prohibited, even though some might dispute that some drugs are more dangerous than others and that marijuana should be made legal and I would agree if it is solely for medicinal purposes and no other reason.
But there will always be another Ross Ulbricht or somebody putting some narcotic out there for somebody to obtain and not all of those will end up with such a severe punishment as Ross, but there is a narrow line and how do we decide who gets what sentence and who we should make an example of?
They might well have needed to make Ross Ulbricht an example for others trafficking narcotics, but Ross will inescapably remember this for the rest of his life, whether he rots in jail or not. This will be on his conscience for the rest of his life and the people that died because of it, that is his sentence.
He might have moved on with his life if he had not been given a prison sentence, he might have got married and had a family, but the reality that his actions put short somebody’s life will never leave his memory.
Some might consider that his punishment was too severe and perhaps he should have been given the possibility of parole but those families whose children died because of his actions will never be pardoned, they will have to live with this to the end of their days, no child should die before a parent.