Ulbricht Wasn’t Convicted On Murder-For-Hire
- Distributing OR aiding and abetting the distribution of narcotics. (Aiding and abetting means knowingly assisting in the commission of a crime, even if he didn’t actually commit the crime. Distribution requires a concrete involvement in the transfer of drugs.)
- The distribution of controlled substances intentionally accomplished by means of the Internet.
- Conspiracy with others to violate narcotics laws. A conspiracy exists if two or more persons, in any manner (whether they verbally agree or not) “come to a common understanding to violate the law.”
- Engagement in a continuing criminal enterprise (kingpin charge). This requires that the defendant committed a series of federal narcotics offenses with five or more people whom he organized supervised, managed and from whom he received substantial profit.
- Conspiring with others to commit OR aid and abet computer hacking.
- Conspiring with others to traffic in fraudulent identification documents.
- Conspiring to commit money laundering.
First, notes on the above charges:
- Regarding charge 4, the kingpin charge: the government failed to identify five people who were organized by the accused.
- Regarding Charge 5, no hacking was proven and no one came forward to say their computer was hacked from software sold on Silk Road.
Following this harsh sentence, the libertarian media sphere (and even some mainstream media) has been in a bit of an uproar. From #freeross hashtag campaigns all over Twitter, supportive statuses all over Ulbricht’s Facebook page, to multiple compelling articles by Jeffrey Tucker, a Charge.org petition to pardon Ulbricht, and even a Huffington Post article asking what good it does to keep Ulbricht behind bars, people are understandably upset at the enormous injustice done to someone who simply sought to perform an economic experiment in the wild west of the Darknet.
On many of the posts I’ve seen, shared, or written myself, dissenters have replied that Ulbricht got such a harsh sentence not for facilitating drug sales, but for allegedly hiring assassins to “take out” people he needed gone, such as former employees or “snitches”. The oft-repeated claim is five or six ordered murders, and it’s a fast derail to any reasonable discussion to the benefits of Silk Road.
The problem with this claim is that it is simply not true. It is a lie. It is a character assassination without basis in fact.
Here’s a fact: he did not receive a life sentence in prison for ordering assassinations on anyone. He wasn’t convicted of that. I repeat: he has not been convicted of ordering ANY assassinations.
Here’s another fact: upon his arrest in October of 2013, six allegations of murder-for-hire were used to sensationalize the story. Fact: they were used as justification to deny him bail. And yet, when this current trial, with seven charges was brought, all allegations of murder-for-hire were mysteriously dropped. These six biggest crimes, the most abhorrent crimes, that he was publicly accused of: they were dropped.
There is one open indictment in Maryland alleging he ordered a murder. One alleged hit. This was not attached to the rest of the trial, and seemed to serve, like the original six allegations, like a character attack in the media instead of actually going to trial and allowing the facts to be brought to light. Conjecture, rumor, lies — these are tools that don’t require such inconvenient legal standards as “innocent until proven guilty”. They don’t want these charges to face the scrutiny of a courtroom, or they would have brought them forward in this case.
Why wouldn’t the government bring forth the charges for the most terrible crimes of which he was accused? Because they had nothing to support them. This is a frequent tactic of government, used in many court situations to bolster a case that doesn’t have a strong enough one within the bounds of legal proceedings.
The often-referenced transcripts of Ulbricht allegedly ordering five murders have not been addressed by actual charges, and no evidence has been provided that the individual in those transcripts is in fact Ulbricht.
So no, Ross Ulbricht was not charged with, convicted of, or sentenced for murders-for-hire. He was charged, convicted and sentenced on the seven counts listed at the beginning of this article, and not one, nor all combined, justify a life in prison.
Speaking of his conviction, an appeal is necessary. Rampant corruption was revealed after his conviction: two federal agents were under investigation (before and during the trial) and have now been indicted for corruption: stealing and extorting funds from Silk Road, as well as other crimes. One of the agents (DEA agent Carl Mark Force) was the lead undercover agent in the case against Ulbricht, and had high-level access to administrative functions of the Silk Road, including the ability to manipulate logs, chats, private messages, posts, account information and bank accounts. The details can be found at this article and this page.
The defense learned of these investigation details only five weeks before trial, but it was sealed pending completion of the investigation – they could not refer to it at trial, nor delay the trial until the investigation was concluded.
These facts literally change everything. They render suspect every piece of government evidence, including the logs alleging Ulbricht ordered hits, including the money transfers, and more.
One more thing detractors bring up in their arguments against Ulbricht on social media is the claim that Silk Road enabled such activities as identity theft, stolen credit card number sales and more. The fact is that the site’s terms of service prohibited the sale of certain items, including child pornography, stolen credit cards, assassinations, or weapons to any type. Claims otherwise are misinformed.
At the end of the day:
Silk Road Reduced The Harm Of Illegal Drug Transactions
See the full arguments made by his lawyers here. The simple fact is, buying illegal drugs is tremendously dangerous. The very act of being illegal makes it so – you don’t know the quality of the product you’re purchasing, or even if it’s really what you asked for. The exchange itself can be dangerous for either the dealer or the customer – either one could resort to violence, or attempt to swindle the other with either counterfeit product or counterfeit money. Violent crime surrounding illegal drug trade is enormous – but within Silk Road, you had anonymous dealers, community verification of product, brokered transactions through bitcoin, and simply a far less dangerous environment to sell or purchase illegal drugs. That’s a simple fact. Ross Ulbricht’s marketplace saved lives and helped shield people from the violence of illegal drug trade.
A terrible injustice has been done, and a brilliant mind is behind bars, possibly for life, because of it.
Ulbricht’s mother can be found speaking for the cause of internet freedom and campaigning on his behalf – they’ll need money for the retrial when they appeal. You can donate or get updates on the case on the website.
The government will use whatever means necessary to try to maintain control over our bodies, our commerce and our lives. People like Ross Ulbricht risk their lives and their freedom to fight for our liberty. The least we can do is try to fight for his.