Tag: victimless crimes

Silk Road: Double Life and Forty Years For a Website

By Nate Galt | United States

Ross William Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, has been the subject of controversy. Ulbricht was the head of the notorious dark web drug-trading market known as Silk Road. He became more interested in liberty and economic theory in college, reading the works of prominent libertarians such as Ron Paul and Samuel E. Konkin III. He decided to set up a market which relied on voluntary exchange in 2011. His ultimate goal was a marketplace, or “Agora,” where victimless goods could be bought and sold. 

Ulbricht’s new website, Silk Road, soon became the leading dark-net drug market. However, other goods were sold there, such as art, books, tee shirts, and tickets to events. The most commonly sold items were user amounts of cannabis. In just over two years, he had amassed a 28 million dollar net worth through all of the commission he had received. Interestingly, all transactions were done in Bitcoin, a new, unregulated cryptocurrency that had sprung up. For every purchase, “Dread Pirate Roberts,” Ulbricht’s online persona, would receive a certain percentage of the sale. He would attempt to calculate his net worth in several spreadsheets that were used as evidence in federal court. 

Several plans were made by the F.B.I. to arrest Ulbricht and to retrieve damning evidence to convict him. On October 1st, 2013, federal agents followed him into a San Francisco public library near his house. After a brief distraction, one of them seized his computer while another agent handcuffed him. All files on the computer were copied to a flash drive. 

Later, the case of U.S.A. v. Ulbricht went to court. Federal Judge Katherine B. Forrest wanted to make “an example” out of him in order to send a message to all deep web drug traffickers. She mentioned several murder-for-hire allegations that Ulbricht was accused of. His defense attorney said that these claims were not true and were just meant to sway the jury into convicting him.

In 2018, a Maryland judge dismissed the murder-for-hire allegations against Ulbricht. However, the jury had already associated the case with murder. Some jurors may have thought that Ulbricht had blood on his hands and was a kingpin who would stop at nothing to keep his drug ring operational, comparable with the likes of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and Pablo Escobar. These fictitious accusations may have played a role in the jury’s decision. Judge Forrest did not mention that several F.B.I. agents violated protocol and that there was a debate as to whether Ulbricht’s constitutional rights had been infringed upon.

In federal court in New York City, Judge Forrest sentenced Ross Ulbricht to two life sentences without the possibility of parole plus forty years, the maximum possible penalty. He was a first-time, nonviolent offender. This draconian sentence was imposed on Ulbricht for hosting a site where drugs, primarily cannabis products, were sold.

Criminals whose actions have victims who did not consent to their actions, such as rapists, murderers, and pedophiles, get much lighter sentences. This clear disparity between the two sentences is extremely unjust. Furthermore, victimless crimes should not be considered crimes to begin with. Laws regulating what consenting adults partake in or consume are merely arbitrary dictates and attempts to legislate lawmakers’ versions of morality.

Every transaction on Silk Road had two consenting parties involved. A man who hosted a site with only voluntary transactions should not be punished harder than someone who violently killed or took advantage of another person. All laws to regulate victimless crimes such as drugs, gambling, and prostitution have failed miserably in their attempt to enforce morality. The only moral thing to do in this case would be for the president to pardon Ross Ulbricht for a crime that does not deserve jail time.


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Arvin Vohra Will Pardon Snowden and Ulbricht of Victimless Crimes as President

By Arvin Vohra | United States

A few days ago, I announced that on the very first day of my presidency, I would take on the role of Pardoner-in-Chief. I would first pardon Edward Snowden and Ross Ulbricht, then continue to all those in prison for non-violent offenders. That includes all in jail for drug use, sales, or networking (like Ulbricht), cryptocurrency law violators, those with only gun possession charges, sex workers, clients of sex workers, and many other victimless criminals. I have also declared my intention to encourage others to use the power of the jury for similar purposes, by saying “not-guilty” to cases involving victimless crimes.

The response has been about what I expected. Many have furiously declared that such large scale pardons would violate the will of the courts, the Constitution, the will of the people, and even moral principles. On each of these areas, my detractors are wrong.

Today, ill-considered mandatory minimum and three strikes laws block the will of the courts. Judges have lost the legal ability to give comparatively reasonable sentences. Many have spoken out against the harsh sentences that the state legally forces them to hand out. In the current legal climate, government ignores the will of the court and replaces it with bizarre, draconian penal requirements.

Also, my plans for large-scale pardons are in no way unconstitutional. In fact, the Constitution directly grants the president the legal ability to pardon. Our past presidents have used this power. Perhaps they have done so on a much smaller scale. Still, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution grants this power without limitation.

In fact, I would argue that the Eighth Amendment nearly creates a constitutional requirement to pardon. This amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Today, those in prison for victimless crimes are in danger. They face the constant and all-too-common threats of assault and rape at the hands of other inmates. While this is not the legislated punishment, it has certainly become a de facto one. The existence of this environment, in my eyes, is a clear and blatant violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Do large scale pardons violate the will of the people? Absolutely not. I have made my intentions clear, over two years in advance of the election. There is no bait and switch here. If the people elect me, they will do so knowing that I will pardon those the state convicts of victimless crimes.

Ultimately, however, this is a question of conscience. I cannot, in good conscience, stand by while the state unjustly imprisons my fellow Americans. I cannot, and will not, do nothing while those who have harmed no one are locked in cages under a constant threat of sexual assault.

In the eyes of many, those people are the bottom rung of society. Perhaps they are. But, that doesn’t mean that their rights matter less, that their freedoms matter less, that they matter less.
While I am not a religious person, I draw great inspiration from the world’s religions. I do believe that whatever the state does to the least of us, it does to all of us. I have no intention of doing nothing while the state unjustly imprisons people in my name, with my money.

To those of you currently imprisoned wrongfully: I don’t seek your vote, as I know you cannot vote. I only ask you to keep fighting, to not give up hope. I know you feel that most of America has abandoned you. Believe me when I tell you that there are more of us than you can imagine, working to set you free, to let you live with dignity. We are going to keep trying. It is not over until we win, until every one of you is free.

To those who enjoy freedom, I ask you to become Pardoners-in-Chief in your own right, but using the power of the jury. As a juror, you have the ability to say “not guilty” if you believe that a law is unjust. Such a process is called “jury nullification” and is a fully legal option for all juries. Essentially, this means that the jury declares the person on trial guilty, but the law unjust. Thus, there is no sentence. That idea isn’t new. It’s the reason we have freedom of the press in America. The famous Zenger trial was decided based on judging the law itself: the defense admitted that John Peter Zenger broke the law, but the law itself was wrong.

As St. Augustine said, “An unjust law is no law at all.” I stand by my pledge to pardon those convicted of victimless crimes on my first day, and ask you to apply the same principle through jury nullification.


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