The Dude Behind The Silk Road Will Face Life Behind Bars

Ross William Ulbricht, AKA Dread Pirate Roberts, is a victim of his own ambition.

Ross William Ulbricht, the creator behind the online drug and illicit goods marketplace, Silk Road, lost an appeal Wednesday after being found guilty by a jury on seven charges in 2015, which included money laundering and drug trafficking. Ulbricht, who operated the dark web bazaar under the moniker Dread Pirate Roberts, received two life sentences for his role in the Silk Road. The judgment, issued by a panel of justices of the U.S. 2nd Court of Appeals, came via a 139-page document, which offers unique insight into Ulbricht’s case.

According to reporting by Matt Burgess for Wired, where much of the Silk Road narrative was first published:

“The judgement says the issuing of ‘pen/trap orders and the three search warrants’ did not violate the Silk Road creator's Fourth Amendment rights. Pen/trap orders enabled the FBI to ‘collect IP address data for internet traffic to and from Ulbricht's home wireless router and other devices that regularly connected to Ulbricht's home router.’ Ulbricht’s team argued that the orders were issued without a warrant, and therefore without probable cause. The judges asserted that because the pen/traps only sought ‘dialing, routing, addressing, and signaling information,’ the argument was irrelevant.”

Ulbricht’s supporters have voiced dismay over the case mainly via the website FreeRoss.org, which is operated and updated by the Ross Ulbricht Legal Defense Effort. Following Thursday’s news, a blog post on FreeRoss called the appellate ruling an “extreme shock and blow." They write:

“I’m in shock. I feel like I’m reliving the day Ross was sentenced and now must go tell Ross that the Second Circuit has upheld his convictions and double life sentence. . . I can’t fathom how the court can believe that keeping Ross locked up for the rest of his life accomplishes anything but wasting a life and lots of money. Do they really think that if Ross emerges in twenty years, after not having been on the internet all that time, he would be a threat to society in any way?”
“The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 says a judge should impose a sentence that is “sufficient, but not greater than necessary.” How is a double life sentence plus 40 years by any stretch necessary? Even if everything Ross has been accused of is true, which we steadfastly do not believe, a life sentence is draconian and unnecessary. We will not stop fighting." 

As Silk Road grew into what the government has called the most sophisticated online drug marketplace the world has yet seen and later served as an operational blueprint for most dark net markets to follow, Ulbricht got lost in the DPR persona. It is equal parts poetic and tragic, really, that the most successful digital drug lord of all time was eventually “brought to justice” in a library armed with a laptop and a few flash drives.