Appeals Court Upholds Life Sentence For Silk Road Creator

Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht lost his bid to get out from a life sentence for operating the underground illegal drug marketplace.

According to a report in Wired, a second circuit appellate court on Wednesday (May 31) rejected Ulbricht’s appeal to fight the sentence, which he has been doing for some years now, with his lawyers pointing to illegal searches during the investigation, corrupt federal agents and a long sentence for crimes that weren’t of the violent nature for the appeal.

In the ruling, the three-judge panel backed the lower court’s sentence despite the harsh punishment. “Reasonable people may and do disagree about the social utility of harsh sentences for the distribution of controlled substances, or even of criminal prohibition of their sale and use at all,” the appellate court’s opinion reads according to Wired. “It is very possible that, at some future point, we will come to regard these policies as tragic mistakes and adopt less punitive and more effective methods of reducing the incidence and costs of drug use. At this point in our history, however, the democratically elected representatives of the people have opted for a policy of prohibition, backed by severe punishment,” the judges wrote.

Wired noted in the ruling that the appellate court struck down all the arguments put forth by the Silk Road founder’s lawyers. For example, Wired reported the appellate court found all of the investigative techniques used were backed by a warrant, and legal.

While the life sentence for Ulbricht was supposed to act as a deterrent for copycat marketplaces, a previous Wired report found the opposite has happened. According to that report, which cited a study that is being published in the upcoming issue of The British Journal of Criminology, Boston College sociologist Isak Ladegaard offers up quantitative evidence that the drug trade on the dark web actually saw a pickup in sales when the Silk Road founder was sentenced to life in prison.

Beginning in 2014, the researcher used a homegrown software tool to troll what, at the time, was the biggest Silk Road-type dark web drug marketplace to get sales data. Focusing on a ten-month window after the sentencing, the researcher found a big uptick in sales.


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