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Silk Road Creator Ross Ulbricht Sentenced to Life in Prison

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Those accusations never became formal charges in Ulbricht’s case—five out of six of the murder-for-hires appear to have been part of a lucrative scam targeting Ulbricht, with no actual victims.

But those murder accusations nonetheless deeply colored Ulbricht’s trial, and strongly influenced his sentence. “I find there is ample and unambiguous evidence that [Ulbricht] commissioned five murders to protect his commercial enterprise,” Forrest said, leaving out one alleged attempted murder for which Ulbricht was charged in a different case.

With those attempted murders as context, Forrest was merciless in her assessment of Ulbricht’s seeming multiple personalities: the altruistic and admirable young man described in the letters sent to her as evidence of his character, versus the callous drug lord she saw in his actions. “People are very complicated, and you are one of them,” she said simply. “There is good in you, Mr. Ulbricht. There is also bad. And what you did with the Silk Road was terribly destructive.”

In his own letter to the judge ahead of sentencing, Ulbricht took a more personal tack, promising that he had learned that the Silk Road was a “terrible mistake” and a “very naive and costly idea” that he regretted and wouldn’t repeat. 

I do believe he has learned. This punishment seems too high for the crime. 

The Justice Department also argued in their letter to Judge Forrest that Ulbricht should be made an example of to stop even more Dark Web market kingpins from following in his footsteps. After all, dozens of copycat sites and advancements on the Silk Road market model have sprouted in the years since its takedown, including the Silk Road 2, Evolution, and the currently largest Dark Web black market to survive law enforcement’s attacks, Agora. 

To combat the spread of those anonymous bazaars, prosecutors asked Judge Forrest to “send a clear message” with a sentence for Ulbricht well beyond the mandatory minimum.

Forrest denied even that the Silk Road was a naive experiment, or some sort of youthful mistake. “It was a carefully planned life’s work. It was your opus,” she said. “You wanted it to be your legacy. And it is.

Ouch. They are really taking a hard line on him.

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