Ross Ulbricht, founder of The Silk Road (darknet market), in prison with fellow inmates. Ross is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Here’s is the letter he wrote to the judge asking for leniency:
As I see it, a life sentence is more similar in nature to a death sentence than it is to a sentence with a finite number of years. Both condemn you to die in prison, a life sentence just takes longer. If I do make it out of prison, decades from now, I won’t be the same man, and the world won’t be the same place. I certainly won’t be the rebellious risk taker I was when I created Silk Road. In fact, I’ll be an old man, at least 50, with the additional wear and tear prison life brings. I will know firsthand the heavy price of breaking the law and will know better than anyone that it is not worth it. Even now I understand what a terrible mistake I made. I’ve had my youth, and 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, an excuse to stay healthy, an excuse to dream of better days ahead, and a chance to redeem myself in the free world before I meet my maker.
On May 29, 2015, U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest delivered her sentence:
"You were captain of the ship, as the Dread Pirate Roberts, and you made your own laws and you enforced those laws in the manner that you saw fit. So, it wasn’t a world without restriction. It wasn’t a world of ultimate freedom. It was a world of laws that you created, they were your laws. It is fictional to think of Silk Road as some place of freedom."
"No drug dealer from the Bronx selling meth or heroin or crack has ever made these kinds of arguments to the Court. It is a privileged argument, it is an argument from one of privilege. You are no better a person than any other drug dealer and your education does not give you a special place of privilege in our criminal justice system. It makes it less explicable why you did what you did."
"There is no reason to make a choice between these two people that I see that are on display – the Ulbricht who is the leader of the criminal enterprise and the Ulbricht who is known and loved. What is clear is that people are very, very complex and you are one of them. They are made up of many different qualities and many characteristics with no one quality defining them. And there is good in Mr. Ulbricht, I have no doubt, but there is also bad, and what you did in connection with Silk Road was terribly destructive to our social fabric. Mr. Ulbricht, it is my judgment delivered here, now, on behalf of our country, that on Counts Two and Four you are sentenced to a period of life imprisonment to run concurrently; on Count Five you are sentenced to five years’ imprisonment to run concurrently; on Count Six, you are sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment also concurrent; and for money laundering in Count Seven, you are sentenced to 20 years, also concurrent. In the federal system there is no parole and you shall serve your life in prison.