Ross Ulbricht, the convicted former admin of the deep web black market Silk Road, is going to be sentenced on Friday. He faces a mandatory minimum after being found guilty of drug charges, with a maximum sentence of life. Both the defense and prosecution have sent letters to the judge in support or against a heavy sentence.
The defense asserts that Ulbricht is such a nice person and a “generous, peaceful, compassionate, inspiring character.” The defense also argued that the Silk Road was in fact the “safest” drug market and acted as “harm reduction.” It was his ideals that led to the creation of the Silk Road, and not fame and fortune. To counter the harm from the drugs, the team cites the payment of a Spanish doctor, “Doctor X,” given $500 a week to offer medical advice.
The “nice guy” argument is a self-selecting bias. If someone was a violent, hateful, unlikeable character, they’d be unable to even get a chance to get away with running something as large as the Silk Road. Ted Bundy, was handsome and charismatic, and volunteered at a suicide hotline. There, he worked with Ann Rule who described him as “kind, solicitous, and empathetic”. Ted Bundy was actually a serial killer and necrophile who assaulted, raped, and murdered around 30 young women.
The argument that Silk Road civilized the drug trade and made it safer contradicts the evidence. The prosecution’s letter cites the case of 6 people who allegedly died from drugs obtained from Silk Road, including 2 minors who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get drugs. The filing also reiterated the story of Michael Duch, an addict who testified that he used Silk Road to get into dealing when he otherwise would not have.
The prosecution argues that Ulbricht did not create the Silk Road entirely out of idealism. In his crime diary, found on his laptop, he wrote, “I am creating a year of prosperity and power beyond what I have ever experienced before.”
In another incident that the prosecution brings up, Ulbricht started a Silk Road contest as a “marketing gimmick designed to drive up drug sales.” The winner was known to be a heroin addict. In a later chat, Ulbricht responded with “oh geez. fuck, what are we doing,” and joked about making the next prize rehab.
Calling Ulbricht an activist is an insult to activists. Real activists sacrifice time and money to help people. They don’t do things for “prosperity and power.” Real activism against the drug war and real harm reduction from the dangers of drugs does not happen while collecting $18 million in bitcoin behind a Tor hidden service.
The real activists are out there on the street, in clean needle exchanges and in addiction clinics, helping addicts get the best medical treatment they can provide. They are at raves testing drugs and giving out information cards on the dangers of the drugs people are taking. They’re in the halls of Congress, lobbying legislatures to revoke the horrendous failed drug war.