Ross William Ulbricht’s Life Sentence: Is It Really Worth It?

As the saying by Maxwell Anderson goes, “All men have crimes, and most of them are hidden.”

Last May 29, 2015, Ross William Ulbricht made headlines as he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for seven felony counts filed in the U.S. Federal Court of Manhattan. Additionally, US District Judge Katherine Forrest has ordered Ulbricht to pay the federal government the amount of $183,961,921 which he got from illegal operations that lasted for over two years. This all happened a few months after he was found guilty of owning and operating Silk Road, an online drug marketplace, which anonymously ran as a Tor service. Ulbricht operated under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts.

The punishment concluded the more than a year-long legal battle between Ulbricht and the government. For months, law enforcement officials closely monitored and investigated the use of bitcoins by those involved in the trade to process deals within the site. Information gathered by the FBI reveals that Silk Road had generated approximately 9,519,664 bitcoins from over a million transactions completed between February 2011 and July 2013. About 30 percent of these transactions were performed in the US. This is by far the harshest punishment imposed for an illicit crime committed through the Internet. This led people to compare Silk Road to other big banks which got lesser penalties despite being involved in multi-million dollar market-rigging schemes.

Unsurprisingly, Ulbricht’s lawyer, Joshua Dratel, is already planning to appeal the disappointing result of the court proceedings.

 

Mixed Reactions

The federal court’s verdict has caused a huge stir in the cyber community. A lot of people posted comments in various social platforms, most notably in Twitter, to give support and sympathy to the Ulbricht family.

Some questioned the severity of the punishment, while others asked how different Ulbricht’s case is from other major criminals who received lesser penalties for the same crime committed off the Internet. In fact, a couple of campaigns are put on place online to offer Ulbricht some kind of support.

For those who wish to donate funds for the Ulbricht family, they can go to http://freeross.org. It’s not just Ulbricht’s future who’s at stake here, but everybody’s Internet and privacy. If you wish to make a difference, then the site is the best place to be to extend help.

 

Documentary about the Rise and Fall of the Silk Road Dark Market

The conviction of Ulbricht has made headlines, thus catching the interest of several filmmakers. To get a better understanding of the Silk Road case, director/producer Alex Winter wrote the film titled “Deep Web.” The movie includes statements from people close to Ulbricht, vendors who’ve previously been involved in the Silk Road trade, and law enforcement officials who’ve painstakingly investigated the case. The film premiered on the Epix channel last Sunday, May 31, 2015.

 

Conclusion

While most people think that Ulbricht deserves less than a life sentence, the government thinks otherwise. Ulbricht committed a crime which he initially thought is beyond law enforcement officials’ reach. This is just one classic example of how the Internet can be in its best and worst at the same time.

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