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Jake Chervinsky @jchervinsky
, 20 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
0/ Ross Ulbricht shouldn't spend the rest of his life in prison.

If you're wondering why his name keeps coming up on #cryptotwitter, please read this. It's long but important.

1/ In 2011, Ross created Silk Road, a global marketplace to buy & sell goods, whether legal or not.

Silk Road was perhaps the first use case for #bitcoin: censorship-resistant internet money for an online market that governments badly wanted to censor.
2/ Silk Road hosted many things, including a book club that a lot of us #crypto people would've liked, but the prime attraction for many users was drugs.

By September 2013, Silk Road had thousands of drug listings, including for cocaine, heroin, and LSD.
3/ Ross was arrested in October 2013 & convicted on multiple charges in February 2015. A lot of *deeply* sketchy things went down during the investigation & trial, but I'll leave that for another day.

In May 2015, Ross was sentenced to life imprisonment times two, plus 40 years.
4/ Okay, let's acknowledge the obvious: Ross knowingly profited from the sale of illegal drugs. It's hard to argue he didn't break the law.

But you don't need to think Ross is innocent (or a libertarian hero) to agree it's fundamentally wrong for him to serve a life sentence.
5/ I'll spare you the technicalities re: federal sentencing. Basically the judge could give Ross any sentence she wanted, within statutory limits.

Ross's drug trafficking charge carried a 20-year statutory minimum. By law, he had to serve that long; any more was up to the judge.
6/ In my view, Ross had a compelling case for leniency.

He had no criminal record and his goal was never to run an internet drug cartel. He was an idealist who, perhaps wrongly, wanted to advance personal & economic freedom through an open, unrestricted & neutral marketplace.
7/ Nearly 100 people wrote letters to the judge on his behalf:

- describing him as kind, genuine & humble
- telling stories about all the good he had done
- praising his intelligence & bright future
- expressing shock at his conviction & confidence he wouldn't do it again
8/ As for his crime, it's true Silk Road drugs hurt many people, but:

- most drug sales were for small amounts of marijuana
- the site was *safer* than street deals per @DrugPolicyOrg
- stolen goods & violent content were banned
- Ross wasn't selling any illegal goods himself
9/ Which brings us to the most controversial (& to me most important) part of the story: the murder-for-hire charges.

The government accused Ross of attempting to pay for the murders of several people who'd allegedly wronged him. His trial did *not* include any of those charges.
10/ In fact the charges were dropped last week. Why's that matter?

Because of a core principle of American justice: each person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, as decided by a jury of their peers.

This is sacred, full stop.
11/ So, as of his sentencing, Ross had not been convicted on any murder-for-hire charges. Despite this, the judge *alone* found that Ross had commissioned five murders-for-hire.

No jury, no trial. No proof beyond a reasonable doubt. No presumption of innocence.
12/ When she gave him double life plus 40 years, she said the "murders significantly justified the life sentence."

Which means the government convicted Ross of certain (nonviolent) crimes, and then had him sentenced for different, unproven (violent) ones.

This should not be.
13/ Ross appealed, arguing that it's unconstitutional for a judge alone to decide that someone committed a crime. He had one of the best legal teams in the country representing him.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Didn't reject it; just left the question unanswered.
14/ What if Ross were only sentenced for running Silk Road, instead of five unproven murders-for-hire?

Maybe he would've come out like the CEO of Backpage, who was convicted for running a sex trafficking site this year and is already out of jail (on bond awaiting sentencing).
15/ To learn about the *many* other problems with this case:

- listen to Lyn Ulbricht, Ross's mom, on the @whatbitcoindid podcast (
- watch the "Deep Web" documentary (
- follow @Free_Ross and connect with Ross himself: @RealRossU
16/ But most of all, sign Ross's petition for clemency. At this point, he has very few angles left to play in the courts. This may be his only chance.

Signing costs you nothing:…
17/ I'll leave you with a few of Ross's own words.

He wrote the following in a letter to the judge before his sentencing hearing ( Read it all, if you have a chance. It's a beautiful and heartbreaking glimpse into his character.

He concludes:
18/ "If you find my conviction warrants a sentence that allows for my eventual release, I will not lose my love for humanity during my years of imprisonment, . . .

I will do what I can to make up for not being there for the people I love, and to make the world a better place[.]"
19/ "Even now I understand what a terrible mistake I made. . . .

I know you must take away my middle years, but please leave me my old age. Please leave a small light at the end of the tunnel . . . a chance to redeem myself in the free world before I meet my maker."

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