Ross Ulbricht is forbidden from going online, but that hasn’t stopped him from tweeting.
Ulbricht – formerly known as Dread Pirate Roberts, founder of the Silk Road Dark Web online market – was convicted in 2015 on charges of money laundering, conspiracy, drug and hacking-related charges.
He was sentenced to double life sentences without parole, plus another 40 years – but that hasn’t kept him quiet: his family opened a Twitter account for him in June, and they’ve been posting his tweets ever since.
After he was convicted, Ulbricht’s mother, Lyn Ulbricht, launched the “Free Ross Ulbricht” campaign, which accuses the government of framing her son as part of the “failed War on Drugs.” The campaign portrays his case as a milestone in the government’s crackdown on internet freedom.
The campaign reads:
This is a sentence that shocks the conscience. The website Silk Road was an e-commerce platform similar to eBay, where individual users chose what to list for sale. Both legal and illegal items were sold, most commonly small amounts of cannabis.
Ross is condemned to die in prison, not for dealing drugs himself but for a website where others did. This is far harsher than the punishment for many murderers, paedophiles, rapists and other violent people.
You might be forgiven if you were to raise an eyebrow at Ulbricht being called nonviolent, given that six separate murder-for-hire incidents were leveled against him. If he had been found guilty of any of those charges, we could safely assume he had a rather harsh way of dealing with business competitors.
But he was not. None of the murder-for-hire allegations turned up in the final charge-sheet.
At the time of his sentencing, however, family members of several people thought to have died of drugs purchased on Silk Road appeared in court. Those deaths were highly significant in what might otherwise seem like an overly harsh sentence for a “nonviolent” offender.
Ulbricht’s lawyers and supporters believe that there didn’t need to be an actual conviction on the murder-for-hire charges: their mere existence influenced his draconian sentencing. Ulbricht’s failed appeal to the Supreme Court asked that the court judge the propriety of sentencing based on unadjudicated accusations.
The court didn’t buy it. They cited “overwhelming evidence” that Ulbricht was “prepared, like other drug kingpins, to protect his profits by paying large sums of money to have individuals who threatened his enterprise murdered,” but that “it would be plainly wrong to conclude that he was sentenced for accidental deaths that the district court discussed only in passing in imposing sentence.”
Ulbricht’s defenders, including his mother, also wonder if the murder-for-hire charges never made it to trial because they relied on the work of federal agents who were themselves charged for crimes committed in the course of the investigation into Silk Road.
One of them, former Secret Service special agent Shaun Bridges, in September 2015 pleaded guilty to stealing Silk Road bitcoins. The other, corrupt ex-DEA agent Carl Force, was sentenced to six years for lining his pockets with bitcoins and for extorting Ulbricht.
Again, the court rejected the notion that the evidence presented by the two corrupt agents was itself invalidated by their crimes.
The murder-for-hire charge – for murders never actually carried out – was finally dropped last month.
The point of the social media campaign is to keep in touch with the outside world. But it’s also to get support for Ulbricht’s petition, which is asking President Trump for clemency. It’s his “only hope of breathing free air again,” Ulbricht said in a 3 August tweet.
According to a 27 July post, Ulbricht is dictating some of his tweets over the phone. They’re then typed in word for word: a technology that could be disrupted if the prison goes on an extended lockdown and he loses phone privileges:
Fyi, I’ve been dictating my tweets over the phone and they get posted word for word. Then the comments get printed and arrive in the mail a few days later. So far, so good, but if the prison goes on an extended lockdown, I’ll have to send my tweets out via snail mail.— Ross Ulbricht (@RealRossU) July 27, 2018
Besides being typed in, Ulbricht’s messages to his supporters have included a hand-written letter, meant to prove that the account is genuine, that was posted to his social media feed as well as to the Free Ross website.
Thank you everyone. You are amazing! 😃 pic.twitter.com/mvGHqmINvm— Ross Ulbricht (@RealRossU) August 10, 2018
His family is bringing or snail-mailing Ulbricht printouts of comments. The messages are raising his spirits, he says. On 19 July, he tweeted about having received nine pages of comments from his petition: a response that has “deeply moved” him.
26 comments on “Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht is dictating tweets from prison”
you ain’t never gonna get it
never gonna get it
never gonna get it
you got this time so wait it out..
In a country where murderers get 20-25 years in the pen you want this intelligent bushiness man to spend the rest of his life in jail. I do not think he should have been prosecuted at all let alone spend his life in jail for selling what people want and are willing to pay for. Mr. President FREE THIS MAN! Save your flames they do not bother me.
how come you say he is bushy?
I’m not anybody just a 67 yr old mother. I agree that murderers,rapists , and pedophiles don’t get that much time. This is ridiculous sounds like the judge was trying to make an example of him. All that “murder for hire” crap should never been allowed with no evidence. Whole thing should have been thrown out because FBI agent and DEA agent. None of their evidence is valid
Well said and I agree.
And lets add a pardon for El Chapo and the Medellin Cartel in the same package.
Once on having served for full your double life sentences without parole, plus another 40 years you’ll come out of jail younger and stronger than ever, and with a clean spirit. Stay strong, Ross!
They should fry the kid
For what? Making a website?
forbidden from going online, but that hasn’t stopped him from tweeting.
I think that is online ? may be it ok ?may be he can look at YouTube all day as well ?
Interesting – and when brought to a judge’s attention may result in contempt proceedings aginst the family. Such injunctions usually include prohibitions against inciting others to do so on behalf of the injunctee.
Ross was caught red-handed with his account open. There’s little doubt he is the “dread Priate Roberts”. The Moral Panic associated with the Silk Road market has much more to do with his sentencing than the “murder for hire” charges and that’s something that is not going to change until the failed “War on Drugs” is replaced with strategies that approach the problem sensibly and treat addiction as medical problems. Without the massive profit margins that illegality and marginalisation makes possible, the problem virtually solves itself because no profits results in no sales motive – as has been seen in Portugual and Switzerland. (Ie, the “war on drugs” actually _helps_ the narocogangs make money – and for them it’s all about money, not drugs)
So criminals who are college-educated and fully aware that their activity is a Federal crime and are doing everything possible to conceal their activity should just be let go because they are white and good looking? This guy wanted a “f**k you” to the government. And the government kind of sees “f**k yous” as a challenge. The government gave him a “No, f**k YOU” sentence.
why are you bringing race into it? why do people always have to assign a color? that’s what keeps racism alive
agree with Trina completely. he benefited from cushy life and ivy league school in his democratic country, then spit on his country to create an illegal, secret anarchist environment to get rich. and there was overwhelming evidence of the murders for hire….so he isnt non violent at all. the guy is a genius and a sociopath…dangerous combination. i really feel bad for his mother, though
In this country you have to actually “prove” that you killed someone, or had them killed. They didn’t do that.
Right, he created an illegal website to get rich. Shame on him-we should kill him. He neither bought nor sold drugs, only created the vehicle to do so. If someone wants to put drugs into their body, that’s their business, not the governments (or at least should be). Sometimes our judicial system goes off the tracks.
Could this guy be reformed, I don’t know. Not sure he has the mindset for that. I do think his sentence was way beyond fair though.
he aint never did nothing to nobody. caint we all just get along
all in all, whichever way you look at this, his sentence,albeit he may deserve a sentence of sorts for actual crimes, but normally a sentence of that epic proprtions would normally entail something so heinous that it should be hard to imagine. some of the most awful cases over recent years have racked up nothing like this sentence, there’s making an example and there’s just plain wrong. if some of the worst offenders on earth will get to walk free then he definitly should.
What happened to the money he made ?
FBI got it. They auctioned it off for billions.
After reading Jake Adelstein last book it seems obvious that R.U is guilty of something, potentially a federal crime but who gets a sentence that heavy? is that a symptom of a fair trial ? Not to me. But then again i am Canadian…
If you can’t do the time…..
Umm…no. I don’t buy the extreme vindictiveness our system has developed over drugs, terrorism and immigration/border inspection violations. Ulbricht is guilty and deserves a long sentence, no doubt, yet questions remain in my mind about how the case was investigated and presented in court. The corrupt DEA agent who’d extorted money for silence using Silk Road admin privileges gotten from informants was one of those targeted in the murder contracts; the others and their putative killer are known only as screen names, fellow criminals screwing Ulbricht, not innocents whose predicaments should have swayed the bench.
Extensive theorizing by prosecutors, government withholding of possibly exculpatory evidence, and the court’s repeated refusals to allow defense evidence be presented to the jury further stained trial conduct. The lengthy Second Circuit opinion blows past much of this to say it doesn’t matter.
That investigators spend thousands of hours, and often millions of dollars, bringing an organized crime case leads us to understand why they want to see life without parole justify their investment. Authorities can’t help the fact that the business of policing is dirty as well, witnesses often thugs who must be coddled in order to finger the main perp. No reason to urge Trump grant clemency given Ulbricht’s sophistication.
But I can remember when 20 or 30 years was believed enough for similar convicts, in a system which offered parole chances at the time. Al Capone got only 11 despite all his hit jobs. We need to repeal some of the laws we’ve passed since the 1980s.
Ross, my heart goes to you and your family.
We reap what we sow in this life wtf did he expect.
Way to much time I could see a sentence of maybe 18 months and some probation but that’s about it he can’t control what people do.