By Indri Schaelicke | United States
A petition on Change.org calling for the release and pardoning of Mr. Ross Ulbricht, famed alleged operator of the dark-web site Silk Road has reached 100,000 signatures. Who is Ross Ulbricht, and why are so many calling for his release?
The Case Against Ross Ulbricht
Police arrested Ross Ulbricht at San Francisco Public Library on October 1st, 2013. At the time of arrest, he was using his laptop to work on the site. A grand jury found him guilty on May 29th, 2015. Ulbricht was charged with money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics, and procuring murder.
Ultimately, the charge of procuring murder did not remain on the indictment, as there was no solid evidence for it. However, the court still took the charge into consideration during Ulbricht’s sentencing. The court eventually gave him two life sentences without parole, plus 40 years.
The Silk Road
An avid libertarian and agorist, Ross Ulbricht was interested in abolishing the use of force and coercion present in today’s world. In his LinkedIn profile, he stated: “I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.” His mother claims that he is describing a computer game he was attempting to create. Others say that this is a reference to his eventual site, The Silk Road.
On the website, users were able to anonymously purchase goods and services using Bitcoin. The anonymity that the platform offered drew many to use it to engage in criminal activity. User amounts of marijuana and other drugs were the most common items that users sold. Many libertarians argue that Ross Ulbricht was simply providing an anonymous platform for transactions and view his creation of the site as nonviolent. Therefore, they believe that he should not be in prison. They also view the government’s harsh sentencing of Ulbricht to be a sign that the State wishes to send a message that they will not tolerate subversion of its policies.
Corruption and Misconduct
The sentencing left many angry at accused corruption and prosecutorial misconduct in the case. Ross Ulbricht’s official website claims that several violations occurred during the investigation and trial. These include:
- Fourth Amendment privacy violations– warrantless seizures of internet traffic.
- Unprosecuted and unproven allegations of murder-for-hire, which factored into the sentencing. On the last day of the trial, lead prosecutor Serrin Turner stated that none of the six contracted murders-for-hire allegations actually took place. Courts had already filed one charge of procuring murder in October 2013 in a separate pending indictment in Maryland. In July 2018, an attorney dismissed this entirely. Nobody ever filed the other five allegations.
- Two corrupt federal investigators, who are currently in prison, were involved in the case.
- “Rogue” federal agents derailed the investigation into the possibility of an alternate perpetrator.
- The court frequently blocked defense cross-examination.
- Defense witnesses were prevented from testifying.
- Essential evidence exists that proved someone within the government tampered with the digital information they used to convict Ross. The information became public more than a year after his trial.
- Proof of multiple people behind the Dread Pirate Roberts accounts, the account the site administrator used. Someone also logged into the Dread Pirate Roberts account while Ross was in jail, according to a Silk Road forum database.
- Parallel construction and other lies hid potential NSA involvement in the case.
The allegations have raised questions about how fair the trial of Ross Ulbricht was. If true, they would certainly undermine the trust of the American people in their justice system.
The petition can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/freerosspetition-we-seek-potus-s-clemency-for-ross-ulbricht-serving-double-life-for-a-website-realdonaldtrump-free-ross
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