Ross Ulbricht is now destined to spend the rest of his life in prison following the sound rejection of his appeal that was meted out the previous week.
The Second Circuit appellate court ruling was firmly delivered to the Silk Road drug kingpin, famously known as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” in a manner that expressed subtle sympathy for the somewhat excessive, yet completely justified conviction of Ulbricht by the lower district court.
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This marked the end of Ulbricht’s five-year battle to escape his lifetime imprisonment sentence, which was influenced by an investigation marred with vast inconsistencies, according to Ulbricht’s defense.
Unauthorized Searches, Corrupt Investigators
The Silk Road investigation is one that will be remembered not only for its unexpectedly severe ending, but also for a number of inconsistencies which many believe played a hand in the largely unfair ruling.
These sentiments were echoed by the appellate court judges who seemed to concur with the majority opinion that the sentencing was heavier than most courts would have issued.
Ulbricht’s appeal was hinged on two key occurrences that his defense feel could have negatively influenced the outcome of his trial.
The involvement of DEA agent Carl Mark Force and Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges—two corrupt officials who stole from the Silk Road and also attempted to extort its founder—in the investigation forced his defense to file for a mistrial.
The appellate court also received and dismissed claims that the Silk Road investigators had conducted unauthorized surveillance of his home network, through which they managed to collect information from his social media and email accounts.
Ulbricht’s defense also raised the issue of what they termed as “unconstitutional searches,” which led to the seizure of his laptop. To this argument, the three-judge panel responded that the searches had been backed by warrants and were as such legal under the Fourth Amendment.
The appellate court upheld and maintained the life imprisonment sentence, despite the prosecution’s move to appeal to the district court’s emotional side by introducing statements which had little or no direct relevance to the Silk Road founder’s case.
Claims that this could have led to misgivings in the final ruling were shot down by the judge panel, who backed the district court’s ability to make decisions that weren’t afflicted by the wrenching testimony.
The three judges, however, agreed that the Silk Road customers’ deaths did not hold much relevance to the trial.
No Reprieve for the Drug Market Founder
In the end, the final ruling of the appellate court terminated all hopes of Ulbricht clawing his way out of life imprisonment without parole. The decision to uphold the district court’s ruling was heavily influenced by the “kingpin” charge, which portrayed Ulbricht as a ruthless administrator who had gone to great lengths to protect the wealth he had amassed through the Silk Road under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts.
They reiterated that there had been overwhelming evidence of this, citing the three attempted murder charges that had weighed profoundly against Ulbricht and ultimately played the biggest part in his sentencing.
According to the court documents, the ruling, although excessive, was completely justifiable. In addition to Ulbricht’s actions, the judges called attention to the volume of sales generated by the drug-fueled marketplace, saying that any prosecution would be justified to seek extreme punishment in such a case.
His sentencing was initially intended to partially serve as a dire warning to other dark web drug kingpins which, in retrospect, worsened the situation drastically.
Subsequent versions of the Silk Road all raked in sales that amounted to more than double of what Ulbricht was arrested for in what was a brash display of impunity by online drug overlords who were now much more alert to the danger of being nabbed by the federal authorities.
The appellate court’s ruling also contained undertones of doubt and subtle sympathy for the extreme sentencing of a young man to spend the rest of his life in prison. The panel admitted that although the sentencing was permissible, they might have considered a less harsh ruling if the case had been presented to them first.
Be it as it may, the writing is finally on the wall: Ross Ulbricht, founder of the trailblazing Silk Road One, will live out the rest of his days in prison.