Ross Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts went to prison for life so you could learn a lesson. Toe the line, stay free. Dare to take firm action against the government, and you’ll end up like him. The alleged operator of the Silk Road, an unregulated dark web retail site that predominantly sold personal amounts of marijuana, received a double life sentence plus 40 years for his actions.
This comes in spite of the fact that none of his crimes were violent, he has no convictions of actually selling illicit substances, and the trial violated his constitutional rights in several important and unfair ways. But on Friday, more direct proof of the unfairness came to light; the owner of Silk Road 2.0, Dread Pirate Roberts 2, received a 5-year sentence for far worse crimes.
Dread Pirate Roberts 2
Dread Pirate Roberts 2 is the internet alias for a man recently discovered to be British privacy activist Thomas White. He pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering, and making indecent images of children. White’s arrest took place in November of 2014, but the case finally concluded today.
In some ways, White appears to have had similar motivations to Ross Ulbricht. Both claimed to have sought out a platform beyond the law where people could act as they choose. However, Ulbricht had a clear moral high ground in comparison to White. Committed to libertarian and anarchist principles of non-violence and freedom, Dread Pirate Roberts did something his successor would not: banned all forms of violence and indecent exposure of children from the site.
Ulbricht’s Silk Road was a place for consenting adults to interact and trade how they desired. White, on the other hand, clearly was uninterested in the morals of what he was doing, permitting child pornography on Silk Road 2.0. In fact, he and Silk Road 2.0 admin Blake Benthall had an online conversation in which White declared his intentions to start a for-profit child pornography site to make money for himself.
An Unfair Discrepancy
Without a doubt, the treatment of Ross Ulbricht was blatantly unfair. This was already evident, as Benthalldid not receive any sentence at all. Now, we know that Thomas White did the exact same things as Ross Ulbricht, in addition to personally trafficking drugs and selling child pornography. Yet, his sentence is shorter even than the time that Ross has already spent in prison. Recently turning 35, he just passed his sixth prison birthday. In all likelihood, a seventh will follow, as will each year after.
White, on the other hand, will face comparatively very little time for his status as a sexual predator. Of course, the laws in the UK differ somewhat from those in the United States; sentencing varies from one country to another. Nonetheless, it is blatantly evident that the actions of Dread Pirate Roberts 2 were far worse than those of the first. But Ulbricht is the one that will most likely die in prison.
Cruel and Barbaric Sentencing
Ultimately, nobody should be spending life in a cell; the very notion is inhumane, barbaric, and virtually no better than the death penalty. But these sentences are particularly heinous for people like Ross. A first-time offender, he had no violent charges.
Clearly, the courts held him responsible for the actions of others. His 40-year sentence alone exceeds that of the top five leading Silk Road drug dealers and admins (including Benthall), combined. Prosecutors did their best to ban the very mention of his philosophy of nonviolence in court. Moreover, two of the federal agents responsible for the case were corrupt and are now in jail themselves.
But worst of all, the judge used allegations of murder-for-hire against Ross to determine his sentence, despite the fact that there was no evidence for this and the charges were dropped. Holding someone accountable for an unfounded accusation may have been commonplace in Salem or the McCarthy Era, but it holds no place in a civil society.
The Dread Pirate Roberts 2 sentence is just the latest line on a long list of evidence that strongly suggests Ulbricht was cheated out of his life. It wasn’t about the Silk Road; it was to suppress dissent and send a message. Well, over 157,000 signatories of a petition for clemency have a message to send right back: Free Ross Ulbricht.
To help grant Ross Ulbricht clemency, please visit Free Ross’ Change.org petition.
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