Tag: free ross

Petition to Free Ross Ulbricht Reaches 100k Signatures

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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71R Exclusive: Interview with Lyn Ulbricht of Free Ross

By Ryan Lau@agorisms

Lyn Ulbricht is the mother of Ross Ulbricht, who created the Silk Road, a deregulated online market built around Bitcoin. She is currently the head of Free Ross, an organization that seeks to reduce or end Ross’s sentence by encouraging the president to grant him clemency. She agreed to this interview with 71 Republic’s Ryan Lau to discuss the American justice system, its mistreatment of Ross, parallels to other figures such as Cody Wilson, and what courses of action supporters of Ross should take to make the world a better place for him and for all.

71R: Throughout most things I’ve read, Ross describes himself as a libertarian. Some sources go so far as to call him a crypto-anarchist. What do those labels mean to him, and what do they mean to you?

Ulbricht: You know, somebody asked him that when they were visiting him in prison; he said he doesn’t really feel comfortable with labels. So, he didn’t really specify, and I don’t really feel I can say what it means to him. I know that he is still committed to the principles of liberty, autonomy, and choice, as am I, as were our founders. In general, Ross is someone who is grounded in the principles of liberty and privacy. Because Silk Road was created to protect individual users, not to be a drug website.

71R: Of course.

Ulbricht: It became, not completely, but predominantly a drug website, mostly small, user amounts of marijuana. You wouldn’t know that from the media or the government, but that’s accurate. There were lots of other things on there. The point was privacy, and that goes hand in hand with freedom. How can we be free if we live in a surveillance state?

71R: Do you think that there is a compatibility of liberty and privacy with a state, or do you think that those two entirely oppose each other?

Ulbricht: I would have to think about that. I think that a lot of things the government is doing now are in direct opposition to the Constitution, to our Bill of Rights, and the principles that this country was founded on. Whether or not we need any government at all is something I am not completely sure of, but I’m not speaking for Ross. I think there are arguments on both sides, but we’ve gone so far away from what it was intended to be, that I think we’re in a lot of trouble.

71R: I would agree. Would you suggest, then, that we should adopt a model that moves away from the strong, centralized government of today and shrinks it as far as is practical?

Ulbricht: Yes. We can start by abiding by the Constitution. For example, take the drug war. There is nothing in the Constitution that says that the government has the authority to throw people in cages for using drugs. The fact is, when they prohibited alcohol, they had to amend the Constitution, and then when they realized it was only creating violence and more problems, they had to amend it again to repeal prohibition. Now with the drug war, they didn’t even bother with an amendment. They just gave themselves the authority and are doing this on a federal level, and a state level, in many states. This is not in the Constitution. That is just one example of the overreach that government is propagating now.

71R: Is the Constitution, then, an acceptable means of limiting government growth, when it hasn’t really done so in the past? Or should we look for a different model?

Ulbricht: Again, that’s a debate that I don’t know if I am prepared to speak about. A lot of people I really respect are not fans of the Constitution. However, a really good step would be to abide by the Constitution, which is what the government is supposedly legally obligated to do. Let’s see how that goes. It’s a tough question, but it seems like that would be a good start.

71R: For sure. Shifting gears a little bit, the actions of Free Ross surely occur, in part, out of your own love as a mother, as well as a desire for individual liberty, as you’ve said. Before this mistreatment occurred, did you have the same philosophy regarding rights and privacy? Essentially, how has Ross’s trial shaped your view on government and society as a whole?

Ulbricht: I would say I leaned libertarian. I took a test on where you fall on the political spectrum, and I fell pretty close to libertarian. My husband and I are entrepreneurs, we just like to be left alone for the most part, to live our lives and make our own choices. So, that’s always been my outlook. However, with what I’ve gone through with Ross, I’ve seen up close how the government operates now. I’m very alarmed – it’s hard to believe, until you actually see it. I went into this thinking, well of course, trials are fair, and everybody acts with integrity, and keeps their oath of integrity, and this will all be fine. And, that is not true.

71R: Right.

Ulbricht: Much of what’s going on now is so un-American, immoral, and counter to our values, that it’s shocked me. Once you’ve lived through something yourself, you can’t deny it, so yes, I see things differently.

71R: That’s completely understandable. So, you were saying that there was not a lot of integrity in the trial. Given the existence of the current legal system, what do you believe would have been the best action for the judge and the jury to make?

Ulbricht: Well, it would have been nice if the judge had allowed all of the evidence to be known to the jury, for a start. There were two corrupt agents who used their access to the Silk Road to steal over a million dollars. With their high level admin access, they also were able to act as different aliases, including Dread Pirate Roberts, who they led the jury to believe was solely Ross. They could act as Dread Pirate Roberts, they could change chats, pin numbers, passwords; they had keys, they had complete run of that site. And they could plant evidence, delete evidence, etc. And this was not permitted to be known to the jury. That’s outrageous to me! I didn’t know this at first. Nobody knew until two months after the trial, when it went public. But then it was too late.

71R: Of course, at that point.

Ulbricht: There were other things. The government’s narrative was very carefully crafted, and that’s what the jury was spoon-fed. And the defense was shot down, again and again, when they tried to challenge it. To me, it just seemed very unfair. I couldn’t believe it, actually. It was shocking. How about we get to hear all of the evidence? That would be a good start.

71R: Do you have any suspicions as to why the trial was done this way, why the evidence was denied and removed?

Ulbricht: No, I have nothing to say about any accusations of corruption or anything like that. I do think there was bias, though, on the part of the judge, Katherine Forrest. Chuck Schumer was behind this case. He recommended Forrest to her position on the bench. The lead prosecutor, Preet Bharara, was Chuck Schumer’s special counsel for years and owed his job to Schumer. Ross was brought from California, where he lived and was arrested, to Schumer’s state (New York). So there appears to be a political bias here. I think the prosecutors were dishonest, too. The trial prosecutor, Serrin Turner, didn’t even let the judge or the defense know about one of the corrupt agents until after the trial. He didn’t disclose that.

71R: And he did have knowledge of the agent’s corruption?

Ulbricht: Absolutely.

71R: The Free Ross website also mentions that there was a clear double standard, as most of the other higher-ups within the Silk Road were given lesser sentences than Ross, if any at all. Do you think that Ross’s case was more of a rule or an exception?

Ulbricht: It was an exception. He was the only defendant in the case that got this unbelievably barbaric sentence. Even Blake Benthall, who ran Silk Road 2.0, which the government called identical and actually said sold more drugs in a month and had more listings, was in custody for 13 days and then was released. He never went to trial, and now nobody knows where he is. I’m not saying I want him in jail, I’m saying that this is not equitable. We’re supposed to be treated equally under the law.

71R: Right.

Ulbricht: Ross is not actually in prison for dealing drugs. He’s in prison for running a website. The guy who was convicted for being the biggest drug seller on the Silk Road got ten years. He has the same offense level as Ross, but he got ten years. The government said to Ross, we’re making you an example. And the judge also said, you’re the first, so you need to be the example. You need to be the one who is sacrificed. This is not what you’re supposed to do in the justice system of the United States, just because you’re the first. It’s not even the law, they just said it.

I became convinced it was political, and about Bitcoin, not drugs, when I saw all of these other sentences. I thought, wait a second. This is so inequitable. What is this really about? And I believe it was about Bitcoin. Chuck Schumer was a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, and the banking committee, and I think that they were alarmed about this currency that they couldn’t control, that they couldn’t tax. It was suddenly becoming kind of big, and I think they had to stop it.

71R: What does that say to you about the current state of the American justice system, if they have to resort to those means?

Ulbricht: It says to me that we are in very great peril of losing our freedoms, and that more and more of us are in danger of being thrown in a cage. There’s a book called Three Felonies A Day that talks about how a person breaks laws every day and doesn’t even know it, because there are so many on the books. Nobody even knows how many. Between the government’s conspiracy laws, which is all of what Ross was convicted on, except for their kingpin charge, which is pretty absurd.

You can be in a conspiracy with very little connection to what was going on, and be given the same punishment as a person committing a crime. Conspiracy laws expand the criminal umbrella tremendously, and there are also things like the Three Strikes Law, which is absolutely evil. Thank you, Bill Clinton. So many people are languishing in prison for decades and decades because of that law.

There’s a guy named Jose that Ross knows in prison, and one of his strikes was residue on a dollar bill. Well, I can have residue on a dollar bill, if I get change at a 7/11, right?

71R: Sure thing.

Ulbricht: It’s absurd.

71R: And he was sentenced for that?

Ulbricht: Yes, it was one of his strikes in his life sentence. He’s a friend of Ross in there. Ross says he’s a totally peaceful, nice guy. He is one of the nonviolent drug offenders in there with him.

71R: They are in a picture together on his Twitter, right? Eight or so men lined up, all sentenced for non-violent crimes?

Ulbricht: Yes. And there’s another, also in the picture, named Tony, who is serving life for selling marijuana.

71R: Serving life for it?

Ulbricht: Yes, he’s already been in there for thirteen years, and the prison is in Colorado! So what it says to me, is that the criminal justice system is not about justice. The correctional system is not about correcting anything, in fact, it’s a criminal training ground. And, it’s about, as far as I can see, a tool for power and money. That’s what I think the drug war is, and mass incarceration. They’re making money and extending their power through human beings, and to me, that’s human trafficking.

71R: I would have to agree with you on that. Very much like Ross, Cody Wilson is also a firm believer in individual liberty and privacy. He currently stands uncharged, despite the fact that the state continues to hinder his progress. Do you believe that there is a parallel between the men, in goal, or outcome? In what ways are their actions similar?

Ulbricht: It reminds me of the people who fought the American Revolution. They were mostly the age of Cody, and Ross, and others. They were in their 20s, they were young, most of them. Some were even in their teens. And they were idealistic, and willing to take risks. I think that is at the core of Cody and Ross. They’re idealistic and care about big principles. You could argue about both of them, and how they chose to do those things. But at the core, I believe that that is who they are, and what they’re really about.

71R: If much of Ross’s sentencing, as you were saying, was to set an example and show control, do you believe Cody has reason to worry the state will treat him in a similar manner, for the same reasons?

Ulbricht: Sure he does. I am concerned for Cody, although hopefully that won’t happen. Hopefully he will be safe from that. But yes, he is very defiant, and is stepping up and challenging them. My experience is they don’t like that.

71R: Right. I have to say I have a very similar concern. The only thing left is something to charge him with.

Ulbricht: Right. I do think he’s very aware of it as well, so hopefully he’s being careful. Cody has this reputation as the most dangerous man in the world. I know Cody personally, and he’s a wonderful person. He’s a stellar person and I regard him very highly, and he’s not a dangerous person at all. And he cares about humanity. Just to say, Cody’s image in the media, which I think he somewhat promotes, is not really who he is, just like Ross’s image. The media portrays Ross as a kingpin, thug, all that, but he’s really one of the most laid back, sweet, peaceful guys you’d ever want to meet.

71R: Do you believe that Ross’s new presence on social media will help change the public’s view on him?

Ulbricht: I hope so. It was completely his idea, and I’m not really involved with it at all. At first I was nervous about it, because I’m always worried the government’s going to use something against him, because that’s pretty much how it is. Mainly, he said, look, I want people to know who I am. I’ve had to be silent all these years and let everybody else say who I am. He just wants to be like a regular person on Twitter. I don’t expect him to get political, or anything like that. I think it’s more about just communicating who he is as a human being, and a regular guy.

When it comes down to it, we are all individuals, we’re all who we are. And so, I think that he felt so cut off, and now he is really enjoying having the interaction. Now, he’s not on the internet. This is through someone else, who is posting, and the comments are mailed to him. I hope it does help people understand him better. Ross’s whole philosophy is peaceful, use no force, voluntary interaction. I don’t think there are many kingpins who have that philosophy! It’s pretty much about force and violence for them. I hope it helps, because it’s been very damaging. A lot of the media just cares about sensationalism and clickbait and then it gets to be how people think it really is.

71R: To wrap up, what is the best course of action, if there is one, for someone trying to promote privacy rights and individual liberty? Is electoral politics a legitimate route? Or should they take more voluntary action through a social movement or create some sort of program like Ross or Cody?

Ulbricht: I’m no expert on this, but I think it’s a blend. I’m trying to do this now, for Ross. We’re out of the judicial realm now, and into the public arena more. At the end of the day, it is the politics that’s going to determine law, and have the force behind it. At the same time, public opinion influences politics. So, the two really go hand in hand.

I would, though, urge anyone who is thinking about this kind of thing to please stay within the bounds of the law. Do not break the law. You need to do your work, for your principles, within the law. I think it’s a dual approach, at least what I’m trying to do. I think one influences the other. Public opinion influences politics, which then influences the law. It is up to Congress to change the law, and they respond to public pressure.

Also, our petition to grant Ross clemency is a key part of blending the social and the political movements. We want to influence the president and convince him that commuting Ross’s sentence is a worthy thing to do. If we have half a million people signing it, I think it would have impact. Our goal is to say that this sentence is wrong, and to please commute Ross’s sentence. If people would please share it and sign it, that would be great. We would really appreciate it. That’s a very important focus right now. Clemency is one of Ross’s last chances, and we need to get the president’s attention.

71R: You believe that it can be done, with enough signatures?

Ulbricht: I think it would certainly help.

71R: Thank you very much for all of your time!

Ulbricht: Thank you for doing this, for caring about getting the truth out there. I really appreciate it.


Please sign the petition to grant Ross Ulbricht clemency, which you can find here.

More information on the fight to free Ross Ulbricht is available here.


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The Libertarian Party Can Win, and Here’s How

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

The Libertarian Party, and the libertarian ideology as a whole, are fighting an uphill, losing battle. Government is only continuing to grow, and the wars are not coming any closer to an end. On the contrary, President Trump just bolstered the military more, signing into law a $717 billion military budget. Despite this, though, it is still possible to begin setting the country back on the right track, towards liberty. The one thing standing in the Libertarian Party’s way is the Libertarian Party.

Now, admittedly, the party has faced a number of challenges in its fairly brief history. They have struggled to obtain ballot access, and rarely, if ever, make the debate podiums on major networks. The two-party system and its duopoly over government surely contributes, but it is also the party’s scapegoat. Just like everyone else, the party needs to have some agency and take responsibility. Part of the reason that the party is not more popular is simply because they have not made the right political decisions.

At the very least, if they cannot accept this, they must recognize that the two party system is not going anywhere. Rather than complain about unfair rules, the party should fight around the rules and prove they can’t be held back. They need to find the right track and find it fast. The Libertarian Party is deeply flawed, but these important changes could turn it around faster than a student of Mises that hears an argument against property rights.

1. Reassert Dominance on Social Liberalism

At the party’s founding in 1971, it was the only one to support gay marriage and legalized marijuana. As such, the party was enticing to members of those groups, who otherwise had no home. But in the last decade, most politicians, beginning with Democrats, have begun to accept both of these practices. As a result, Libertarians have lost their advantage on social liberalism.

So, as a reaction to this, it is time for the Libertarians to voice strong support for important social issues that the major parties do not condone. A prime example of this is the decriminalization, and ultimate deregulation, of all narcotics. Using Portugal’s success as evidence, the Libertarian Party could seriously bring a new wave of social liberalism to the country. They simply need to steer clear of moderation, avoiding Gary Johnson’s policy of only legalizing marijuana. Libertarians need to use their uniqueness when it comes to social policy as a strength and a defining factor, not something to shy away from.

This uniqueness should also extend to new areas of social liberalism that have yet to catch on in the public eye. As new, voluntary ideas form, it is the job of the Libertarian Party to welcome them with open arms. Perhaps, in the next few years or decades, cloning will become mainstream. Currently, a vast majority of Americans do not find the idea of cloning moral. Naturally, this would suggest that those in power would agree and ban the practice. But by using this unique social tolerance, Libertarians can give a voice to those in support of unorthodox and unsupported social practices.

2. Begin to Explore Politics of the Future

The average American right now probably thinks that cyber-chips and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology are things of the future. However, they are beginning to slip into the mainstream. Already, RFID is used extensively in several areas, including the skiing industry. Moreover, a company in Sweden is implanting its employees with microchips that they use for everything from paying for lunch to opening the door. So, just how long will it be before we combine these technologies, and micro RFID implants are as common as essential as cell phones?

Probably not very long, as the technology would be incredibly convenient and profitable. Despite this, nobody in politics, save transhumanists like Zoltan Istvan, is talking about it at all. Whether the people like it or not, society will continue to progress, probably to the dissatisfaction of a lot of conservative traditionalists.

In fact, one of the most common errors of society is the inability to see that it will always change and evolve. George Gilder puts it excellently in his recent book, Life After Google. One of the fatal flaws of communism was that Marx believed his early industrial society to be the peak of human accomplishment. Likewise, politicians today entirely ignore the technology of the future.

The Libertarian Party, by looking at topics of the future, can assert dominance over the other parties. When the ideals come to fruition, as they will, the Libertarian Party will be the only ones talking about them. By supporting the right to modify one’s body, while condemning possible coercive government use of this technology, they can be the leading voice in technology politics, attracting both supporters and skeptics with this two-sided policy.

3. Become the Party of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is not dead. Though the value bounces up and down, the market as a whole has a definite future. But much like futurism, nobody is really talking about it. Occasionally, the government makes a move and begins to regulate the blockchain. While this all occurs, the Libertarian Party does nothing.

Estimates vary about the number of total Americans that use cryptocurrency. One survey suggests that roughly five percent of Americans hold bitcoin. Of course, there is another significant portion of people that hold altcoins and not bitcoin. For the sake of simplicity, assume that the figure rests at a conservative five percent. Those five percent sure aren’t going to like when the federal government starts regulating their money, considering that crypto is known for its lack of government regulation.

Of course, an increase in regulation may leave all of these people feeling disenfranchised with the parties doing it. Yet, there is no real alternative at the time. In their official 2018 platform, the Libertarian Party does not mention Bitcoin once. That’s right, the party of decentralization and free markets has missed a huge opportunity. By favoring cryptocurrency and all other money that evades the state, they could do wonders in paving the way for future action in regards to it, as well as attracting more people involved in cryptocurrency to the movement and the party.

4. Stop Acting Like a Political Party

Political parties, like many other organizations, are filled to the brim with bureaucracy. Meaningless banter and semantics dominate discussion and limit discourse. In this case, the Libertarian Party is no different. Party member and 71 Republic writer Spencer Kellogg explains it in great depth in his review of the 2018 national convention. At one point, the members spent an hour or so debating whether the chair candidates should speak for five or ten minutes. Yes, they saved a half an hour, but not before wasting an hour debating, and netting a loss of time.

Moreover, the party relentlessly fights, to be frank, like a bunch of children. Just today, Caryn Ann Harlos, the Libertarian Party National Secretary, bickered senselessly with James Weeks of the socialist caucus. The former stated that it was a mistake to have socialists in the party, while the latter, of course, denied this. But while they fought, the bombs kept dropping, and the tax collectors kept collecting taxes.

Thus, it is time for the party to stop arguing, as long as there are so many areas of common ground. Before worrying about which economic system to adopt in a libertarian society (which does not matter at all, because all are free to form communities with the economic system of their choice), end the wars. End the central banks. End the systemic oppression that the federal government brings with nearly its every action. Stop looking at whether to fight Bill Weld or Adam Kokesh or James Weeks, and start fighting the government that has wronged all three.

5. Support Enemies of the State

The previous points have largely talked about ways to secure more votes and win an election. However, if securing a vote and winning an election are the eventual goals, there’s the door. Don’t let it slam on the way out. The battle goes far beyond winning one election or ten elections. Rather, it continues until we extirpate from the world the very thought of coercion. This isn’t to say that elections cannot be useful tools to bring about liberty, as they definitely can. The thing is, though, individual citizens have done more for this in five years than the Libertarian Party has in nearly fifty.

Just recently, Cody Wilson won a lawsuit against the federal government, and the files for a number of 3D printable guns are widely available. This avoids the painstaking process of registration, and the coercion that meets those who do not comply. Ross Ulbricht, by creating the Silk Road, has offered a platform for those who deal in substances the state does not approve of. Edward Snowden has revealed a great deal of information about the government’s corruption.

What do these men all have in common? None of them sought out a public office in order to accomplish their goals. On the contrary, all of them sought to make the world a better place by freely expressing themselves and their ideas. None have any affiliation with the Libertarian Party, and hence, the party says little about any of them. Occasionally, they voice support for Snowden or Ulbricht, but it is not a consistent message. Allying with enemies of the state is a powerful strategy, and if the party uses it properly, they may find themselves more able to foster more individuals who will also make the world a freer place.

The Future of the Libertarian Party

So, what does the future of the Libertarian Party look like? Following these steps, they could transform themselves from an irrelevant sect wrought with infighting to a major force that improves lives. But if they change nothing, well, ‘irrelevant sect’ just might be a good description for a whole lot longer than it needs to be.


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Petition to Free Ross Ulbricht Reaches 43,000 Signatures

By Indri Schaelicke | United States

A petition to grant clemency to Ross Ulbricht has reached over 43,000 Signatures on Change.org. Reaching the petition’s goal of 50,000 signatures could be a key step towards a pardon from Trump himself. But just who is Ross Ulbricht, and what is his story?

Ross Ulbricht is a 34 year old Austin, Texas native. Also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, he is currently serving a double life sentence for non-violent crimes relating to his owning and operating of a dark web marketplace known as the Silk Road. The website offered users anonymity by using the software Tor and making transactions in Bitcoin. Many used it for drug purchases and other illicit activities. Its anonymous nature allowed users to evade law enforcement.

The Case

Ross Ulbricht was apprehended at San Francisco Public Library on October 1st, 2013 in San Francisco. He was tried by a grand jury and found guilty on May 29th, 2015.

Ulbricht was charged with money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics, and procuring murder. The charge of procuring murder was removed from the indictment, but the evidence was considered in Ulbricht’s sentencing. The judge presiding over the case, Judge Katherine Forrest, said she would give Ross “the severest sentence possible.” She did just that, sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Subsequent Outrage

Much of the outrage over the sentencing of Ross Ulbricht comes from the perceived corruption and prosecutorial misconduct in the case. The official website of Ross Ulbricht’s family claims several abuses and violations occurred during the investigation and trial, including:

If true, these allegations would raise serious questions about how fair the trial was.

Further outrage comes at the fact that the FBI has not revealed how they were able to penetrate the Tor software that Ulbricht used. This has led to suspicion and many conspiracy theories. While the FBI has made several claims about how they were able to break through the Tor barrier, several experts have debunked their explanations.

The sentencing of Ross Ulbricht sets a great precedent in that government may find the desire for privacy akin with an intent to commit crimes. During the trial, the prosecutors argued exactly that point. If courts rely upon this precedent, it could lead to the swift and large-scale erosion of liberty.

Libertarian’s biggest beef with this ruling is that Ross Ulbricht was punished for illegal activities perpetrated by others. They believe that he was simply hosting an internet website and a platform for anonymous transactions. Ulbricht’s supporters maintain that he should not be held accountable for the illicit transactions done by others.

Support for Ross Ulbricht

Ulbricht’s case has received large scale support from the National Lawyers Guild, American Black Cross, Reason Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, and Downsize DC Foundation.  All filed amicus curiae briefs in support of Ross’s case before people petitioned the Supreme Court to hear it.

The Libertarian Party, which has expressed support for Ross Ulbricht, is also giving the case attention. Following calls to “Free Ross Ulbricht” at their national convention, the LP urged members to sign the petition on Change.org.

Moreover, John McAfee come out in support of Ulbricht, penning a blog article in which he discusses at length the need for privacy.

Libertarian groups Young Americans for Liberty and the Cato Institute have also come out in support of Ulbricht.

Recent Developments

On 20 July 2018, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Robert K. Hur, dismissed the murder-for-hire charges, seeing as Ulbricht’s petition to have his case heard by the Supreme Court of the United States was denied.

Ulbricht also recently became active on Twitter on July 19, 2018. With the help of his mom and friends, he is able to connect with his supporters from inside his prison cell.

Most recently, however, a petition on Change.org started by Ross Ulbricht’s mother, which seeks a presidential pardon for her son, has reached over 43,000 signatures. If it continues to have such widespread support, the Trump administration will be likely to look more closely. If you would like to help Ross in this fight, please sign the petition, which can be found here.


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