Why a judge threw the book at Silk Road’s founder


Everyone gasped. It was clear Ross Ulbricht would do serious time for running Silk Road, an online bazaar for drugs and illicit activities. But no one predicted a judge would put him in prison until he dies.

Why was the sentence, handed down on Friday, so harsh? Why did U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest treat Ulbricht, whose only weapon was a keyboard, more severely than many murderers and child molesters?

For Ulbricht’s supporters, the life sentence confirmed their suspicions: the FBI and Judge Forrest chose to make Ulbricht a scapegoat for America’s failed drug policy, and to punish him for using a technology they could not control.

The reality is more complicated. While the Silk Road saga is about internet culture and about U.S. drug policy, the real reason Ulbricht will spend life in prison is because of a poor legal strategy and the terrible things he did.


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