Free Ross Ulbricht
In Case You Don’t Know
Ross William Ulbricht is a former dark web market operator, best known for being convicted of creating and running the Silk Road website until his arrest. He was known under the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts”.
Ross Ulbricht was arrested on October 1, 2013 in San Francisco, based on the accusation that he created and operated the anonymous online marketplace Silk Road under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR). The Silk Road website was an open market with few restrictions and permitted vendors to sell drugs and other illegal goods as well as legal ones, including art, books, raw milk and clothing. It forbade items that the administration considered victimizing, including child pornography, stolen goods and assassinations.
Nothing but drug sales was allowed to be mentioned before the jury.
Silk Road was hosted on the TOR anonymous network and the means of exchange was exclusively the digital currency bitcoin. In order to use it, one had to open and use a bitcoin account as well as know how to use TOR.
The government cited no victims for any of its charges at trial or for its uncharged, unconvicted, unproven allegations of murder-for-hire that were included in the criminal complaints, indictment and were presented to the jury at trial.
Although it was an extremely complex case, on February 4, 2015 a jury delivered a guilty verdict of seven counts in a mere three hours. On May 29, Ross was sentenced to five of those counts (#2, 4, 5, 6, 7). Two counts were ultimately removed due to the duplication of Counts 1 with 2, and also Counts 3 with 4. However, the jury was told he was guilty of all seven counts. The defense argued that Count 2 should be dismissed as also subsumed within Count 4, but was denied.
Accordingly, Ross was sentenced on the remaining Counts. He received the maximum for each Count, with each to run concurrently to the others: Count Two (life), Count 4 (life), Count 5 (5 years), Count 6 (15 years) and Count 7 (20 years). Because of the concurrent nature, this is equivalent to three life sentences. None of the charges accused Ross of selling an illegal substance; laundering money; hacking into a computer; or selling fake IDs; or directly harming any person or property. Rather the charge is that he created and ran a website that permitted these actions. The charges are all non-violent and Ross has no prior offenses.
Ross now resides at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, New York. He is appealing the trial and sentencing.
This ruling is bad news for future entrepreneurs seeking to build online marketplaces. At any moment … the U.S. government could tell a story that the online marketplace is part of a giant conspiracy by helping illegal transactions; and on that theory, seize the business … and threaten the founders with the prospect of years or decades in jail. — Eric Goldman, Forbes
The charges that the government was required to prove at trial, beyond a reasonable doubt, are:
Count One: Distributing OR aiding and abetting the distribution of narcotics. Aiding and abetting means knowingly assisting in the commission of a crime, even if he didn’t actually commit the crime. Distribution requires a concrete involvement in the transfer of drugs.
Count Two: The distribution of controlled substances intentionally accomplished by means of the Internet.
Count Three: Conspiracy with others to violate narcotics laws. A conspiracy exists if two or more persons, in any manner (whether they verbally agree or not) “come to a common understanding to violate the law.”
Count Four: Engagement in a continuing criminal enterprise (kingpin charge). This requires that the defendant committed a series of federal narcotics offenses with five or more people whom he organized supervised, managed and from whom he received substantial profit. This charge contradicts Count One, as you can’t be an organizer AND just an aider or abettor. In addition the government failed to identify five people who were organized.
Count Five: Conspiring with others to commit OR aid and abet computer hacking. No hacking was proven and no one came forward to say their computer was hacked from software sold on Silk Road.
Count Six: Conspiring with others to traffic in fraudulent identification documents.
Count Seven: Conspiring to commit money laundering.
The Court also imposed forfeiture in the amount of $183,961, 921. It did not impose restitution because the harm was not quantifiable in terms of money damages.
Excerpt from freeross.org – The Official Site of The Ulbricht Family
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