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Silk Road Creator Appeals Life Sentence

Ross Ulbricht, the creator of the bitcoin-ran Silk Road online illegal drug marketplace, has filed an appeal — less than a week after a federal judge sentenced him to life in prison.

The appeal, filed in court on June 1, disputes both the May 29 ruling and his initial convictions, which included seven federal charges that involved everything from money laundering and drug trafficking to conspiracy charges.

During his 3-hour conviction sentencing hearing, Federal Judge Katherine Forrest called the Silk Road “an assault on the public health of our communities,” as it was the site that funneled through billions of dollars for selling heroin, cocaine and crystal meth.

While Ulbricht had written a letter to the judge as an appeal for sympathy, writing that “I’ve had my youth, and I know you must take away my middle years, but please leave my old age,” it appears that wasn’t enough to convince the federal judge. He asked for the judge to issue only the mandatory minimum of 20 years, noting that the site was about encouraging freedom — and wasn’t designed with a criminal or malicious intent.

Ulbricht was convicted in February as running the Silk Road marketplace under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts.

“Silk Road was supposed to be about giving people the freedom to make their own choices, to pursue their own happiness, however they saw individually fit. What it turned into was, in part, a convenient way for people to satisfy their drug addictions. I do not and never have advocated for the abuse of drugs. I learned from Silk Road that when you give people freedom, you don’t know what they’ll do with it,” Ulbricht wrote.

But in her remarks, Forrest said Ulbricht was “no better a person than any other drug dealer,” and said his social status should not provide him privilege under the law. Following the sentencing, Ulbricht’s lead lawyer Joshua Dratel called the ruling “unreasonable, unjust, unfair and based on improper consideration with no basis in fact or law,”

Since Ulbricht was arrested in October 2013, his case has gained national publicity, and even inspired the creation of freeross.org. The support group has pledged that the case is about more than bitcoin and more than the crimes that Ulbricht was accused of committing. Instead, the group argued, Silk Road was about Internet Freedom — saying that any conviction would set poor precedence for the future and freedom of the Internet. In a video posted last year on Reason TV, Lyn Ulbricht spoke about what was at stake in her son’s case.

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