On Wednesday, July 17, the United States finally put away Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, for good. The drug kingpin had an extensive criminal history, with convictions ranging from mass distribution of cocaine to conspiracy to murder 26 people and groups. Since a judge found him guilty in February, he has been in detention in Manhattan. At the hearing, he complained about the inhumane treatment that the feds gave him while awaiting his grim fate. He specifically noted that he was “denied access to air and sunlight and was “forced to drink unsanitary water”. But compared to the peaceful libertarian entrepreneur and Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht, El Chapo got off easy.
Ross Ulbricht vs El Chapo
For decades, El Chapo was the kingpin of a massive drug organization, the Sinaloa Cartel. In his position, he distributed mass amounts of cocaine. Though his jury only found him guilty of the distribution of 150 kilograms, evidence exists that the actual total was over one million kilograms.
Ross, on the other hand, didn’t distribute an ounce. Though others sold cocaine on his decentralized e-commerce platform, he is not personally guilty of this. Claiming so would be like saying Amazon is guilty when someone sells drugs on the platform, or that the state of California is guilty when someone sells weed outside. It goes without saying that it’s absurd to assign Ross guilt for the actions of others, but his jury still convicted him of distributing 5 kilograms of cocaine.
This wasn’t the only charge against either of the men, though. In total, the government convicted El Chapo of ten crimes, and Ross Ulbricht of five. All of Ross’ were nonviolent. But El Chapo has a potentially violent past; his jury found that he conspired to murder those who stood in the way of his cartel.
The government also seized radically more money from El Chapo than from Ross, taking $12.6 billion from the actual kingpin. There is no evidence, on the other hand, that Ross had any of the money that the government took. Though they seized a Bitcoin wallet containing 144,000 Bitcoin on October 1, 2013, (about $20 million), the government was unable to prove that this was even Ross’ wallet. They never identified a transaction to his bank account, and the account was really a wallet that all site admins shared. Is this really grounds for destroying a family?
It’s pretty obvious that El Chapo has violent tendencies, and those simply aren’t present in Ross. Since his imprisonment, he has led educational classes for other inmates and refused to attack a fellow inmate, even at risk to his own life. Growing up, Ross Ulbricht was an Eagle Scout and committed himself to the ideas of peace and freedom. But the sentencing that the two received seems to contradict their respective lifestyles.
Ross Ulbricht is currently serving a double life sentence, plus 40 years. Many of his convictions weren’t even against his person; judges found his ownership of the site as enough to lock him up for the crimes of others. Meanwhile, El Chapo basically has half of this: one life sentence, plus 30 years. Neither of the men has the opportunity for parole.
What does this say about the United States justice system? In essence, one of two things; they’re either incompetent or intentionally targeted Ross for political reasons. Considering the fact that they prohibited Andreas Antonopoulos, a foremost expert on Bitcoin technology, from speaking at Ross’ trial, the latter is almost certainly true. Antonopoulos could have easily explained the principles o ownership and control related to Bitcoin wallets. But the prosecutors didn’t care much about the truth. For their inhumanity, Ross Ulbricht, a budding young man hoping to make the world a freer place, is stuck behind a cage with a sentence twice as severe as the biggest drug lord of the decade.
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