Ross Ulbricht, founder and mastermind of the Silk Road, has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of narcotics conspiracy and other charges earlier this year. Those charges came with a 20-year minimum sentence but no possibility of the death penalty, making life in prison the harshest possible sentence. That's exactly the punishment that Judge Katherine Forrest decided upon, though she admitted it was a "very, very difficult" call to make. Her ruling leaves Ulbricht without any hope of parole. Barring a successful appeal, Ulbricht, 31, will die behind bars. Judge Forrest described Silk Road as "an assault on the public health of our communities."
According to Motherboard, the judge launched into an unforgiving teardown of Ulbricht's character as she revealed he'd be locked away for life. "You are no better a person than any other drug dealer. Your education doesn't make you different, and makes this more inexplicable," Judge Forrest said. Ulbricht's request to serve his time in a prison with more relaxed security was also denied during the hearing. Ulbricht has said he plans to challenge the guilty conviction.
"You are no better a person than any other drug dealer."
The charges stem from Ulbricht's management of the Silk Road, which used Tor Hidden Services and Bitcoin payments to create an ostensibly anonymous marketplace for drugs and other goods. Shut down in October of 2013, the Silk Road was the largest marketplace of its kind, and subsequent attempts at similar online marketplaces have been stymied by law enforcement actions and exit scams. The prosecution estimates that the Silk Road handled as much as $200 million in drug transactions, a figure that played prominently into today's sentencing decision.
The defense also made an extensive appeal for leniency, citing Ulbricht's ability to contribute to society in spite of his crimes. Ulbricht's team submitted nearly a hundred letters from friends, family, and other acquaintances, testifying to Ulbricht's good character. "I’ve had my youth, and I know you must take away my middle years," Ulbricht wrote in a pre-sentencing statement, "but please leave me my old age." Judge Forrest had a harsh reaction to Ulbricht's plea, describing it as a "display of arrogance that the court takes into consideration."