Appeals Court Weighs Arguments in Silk Road Case

Prosecutors on the Silkroad case where 32-year-old Ross William Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison were questioned on the fairness of the judgment in a Manhattan federal appeals court on October 6.

Ulbricht was convicted for being the brains behind the dark web site Silkroad, which was best known for facilitating the sale of illicit drugs.

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In the oral arguments presided by three US Second Circuit Court of Appeals judges, numerous questions were posed concerning the even-handedness of the ruling, which was doled out by US District Judge Katherine Forrest in 2015.

Emotional Impact

Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison

One of the members of the three-judge panel presiding over the oral arguments, Judge Christopher Droney, openly challenged the sentencing as he pointed out that it was bizarre for a middle-aged man with no prior criminal records and no direct ties to any drug trafficking activities to get slapped with such a hefty sentence.

His colleague, Jude Gerard Lynch suspected that testimonies from the parents of two Silkroad buyers who died from overdosing at the 2015 trial could have had a heavy emotional impact on the case and might have influenced the over-the-top sentencing.

According to Lynch, the testimonies in the 2015 trial of the Silkroad creator put an extraordinary thumb on the scales against Ulbricht. The judge added on to call the sentence “quite a leap.”

Promising Innovator with Misplaced Priorities

The 32-year-old Californian resident was arrested following the seizure of the dark web drug market by the authorities.In its 2-year operation, Silkroad had made over $200 million in sales using the encrypted digital currency, bitcoin.

In its 2-year operation, Silkroad had made over $200 million in sales using the encrypted digital currency, bitcoin.

Ross Ulbricht was accused of masterminding the Silkroad operation from which he amassed $18 million.

Supporters of the Silkroad mastermind painted Ulbricht as a young, insightful innovator who had been led astray by his youth.

His defense lawyer Josh Dratel called on the three-judge panel to view the extreme ruling for what it really was.

Dratel painted Ulbricht

He called the life sentencing of the Silkroad mastermind unreasonable basing his remark on the fact that even murderers got a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Dratel went on to paint Ulbricht as the landlord of Silkroad who had no direct links to the activities that took place therein.

“No Ordinary Kingpin” – Prosecutor Eun Young Choi

Ross Ulbricht had been accused of hiring alleged assassins to get rid of enemies that threatened the continuity of Silkroad.

The three-judge panel saw this as more than just passive involvement and part of the reason why Ulbricht was tried as more than just the “landlord” of Silkroad.

Although none of the assassinations were carried out, prosecutor Eun Young Choi considered this a threat of violence that would have landed Ulbricht for life in prison even without the overdose deaths.

The prosecutor termed it unprecedented and went ahead to paint the Silkroad mastermind as an unusual kingpin.

Convicted Investigators

Ulbricht’s defense has also been trying to use the case of two federal agents who were convicted of bitcoin theft during the Silkroad investigation, as a pivot to overturn his conviction.

As things stand, there are no clear indications of when will be the judges’ ruling.

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