Silk Road founder sentenced to life in prison without parole

29 May 2015

Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road online drug emporium, has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The 31-year-old ran the infamous marketplace where users could anonymously buy drugs, weapons and other illicit goods. In February he was found guilty of seven charges against him, including selling narcotics, money laundering and maintaining an “ongoing criminal enterprise”, a charge that is normally reserved for organised crime kingpins.

As reported by The Guardian,  Judge Katherine Forrest of Manhattan’s US district court handed Ulbricht sentences of 20 years, 15 years, five years and two of life, all of which are to be served concurrently. The parents of the victims of drug overdoses were allowed to address the court before sentencing. “I never wanted that to happen,” said a tearful Ulbricht. “I wish I could go back and convince myself to take a different path.”

The former boy scout ran Silk Road between 2011 and 2013 and was caught in the science fiction section of a San Francisco library while logged into the network. His defence claimed he ran the marketplace as an economic experiment and that he stopped working on the site but was lured back to work on it and be the fall guy. This version of events was rejected by the jury.

Under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts, Ulbricht grew Silk Road into a billion-dollar marketplace. When he was arrested in October 2013, the FBI recovered thousands of pages of chat logs related to the running of Silk Road from his laptop.

“The stated purpose [of Silk Road] was to be beyond the law. In the world you created over time, democracy didn’t exist. You were captain of the ship, the Dread Pirate Roberts. You made your own laws,” Forrest told Ulbricht as she read the sentence.

In a letter sent to the judge, Ulbrict had asked that she “leave a light at the end of the tunnel” by not eliminating the chance that he may one day see release. “I know you must take away my middle years, but please leave me my old age,” he wrote.

The prosecution, however, argued otherwise. “[A] lengthy sentence, one substantially above the mandatory minimum, is appropriate in this case,” they wrote, also in a letter to Forrest.

Law image via Shutterstock

Dean Van Nguyen was a contributor to Silicon Republic