As you go to bed tonight or wake up this morning, remember that not everyone is living in the comfort and security that you’re experiencing. You may not have the nicest home or the most money, but what you have isn’t too bad. Remember that there are people sitting in jail cells, not sure of their futures. Yes, some of them have committed crimes, some for breaking laws that caused no harm to their fellow man. And even still, some have committed no crime, falsely accused or wrongly convicted of some act.
Ross Ulbricht is sitting in a jail after being accused by the government of narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, money laundering, and engaging in a criminal enterprise for his alleged connections to the Silk Road. If you’ve heard of Ross, you have probably been led to believe that he is a dangerous criminal who sought to pay a hitman to murder someone who threatened him.
Ross was never indicted for the prosecution’s murder-for-hire charges and no actual proof exists that it occurred. There are no records of a murder. Those charges simply appear to be a tool to smear the name and reputation of Ross Ulbricht and make it more difficult for him to make bail. Keeping him silent helps keep them unaccountable.
- Count One: Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §846. This statute does not address Ulbricht’s alleged conduct. He is not alleged to have possessed or sold drugs, but to have operated a site where they were bought and sold by others.
- Count Two: The Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) under Section 848(a). Historically this has been reserved for “kingpins,” mafia bosses, cartel leaders and upper supervisory personnel directly involved in illegal drug sales. No one allegedly operating a website serving as a “platform” for illegal activity has ever been prosecuted under §848(a). The Indictment does not allege that Ulbricht supervised, organized, or managed any of the “users” who were buying and selling illicit goods and services, only that he was the owner/operator of the site. At worst it says that Ulbricht allegedly acted as a facilitator by providing a platform, but never as a ”kingpin” or leader of a continuing criminal enterprise.
- Count Three: The Computer Hacking Conspiracy in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) 18 U.S.C. §1030(a)(2)(C). This utterly fails to connect Ulbricht to the unauthorized access to any computer. It only alleges that Silk Road “provided a platform for buying and selling malicious software.” Someone selling software that might be used illegally does not transfer that person’s intent to the site’s host. Establishing a violation of 18 U.S.C. §1030(a)(2)(C) requires “proof that the defendant intentionally accessed information from a protected computer without authorization.” This count does not accomplish that, or even allege knowledge of a conspiracy.
- Count Four: Participation in a Money Laundering Conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1956(h). In order to violate this law funds, or a monetary instrument, must be involved. The IRS and the Dept. of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) formally confirmed that Bitcoins, the exclusive means of payment on Silk Road, do not qualify as a monetary instrument. FinCEN states that virtual currency “operates like a currency in some environments, but does not have all the attributes of real currency.” And “virtual currency does not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction.” Therefore, not being real currency, Bitcoins cannot serve as the basis for a money laundering violation.
Now watch this interview of Ross’s mother, Lyn Ulbricht, by Julia Tourianski:
If you won’t look at both sides of the story for the sake of Ross, do it for your own sake. The government has shown (once again) that it deems it necessary neither to follow its own laws nor to treat people with dignity and respect. According to its Constitution, “All men are created equal.” If all men are created equal, and this is how they treat Ross Ulbricht, this is how they will also treat you if they want to.
And thinking generally, because much of the validity of the charges hinge on this idea, how does one commit a crime against the government?
This isn’t “just one guy” or an “isolated incident.” This is real and it can happen to anyone who dares question the authority of the government. But even if you don’t think you have to worry about that, this case has the potential to set major precedents in future lawmaking regarding the internet, crypto-currency, and privacy. We are living in the age of the internet and there is no turning back. We do, however, have the opportunity to fight for some degree of freedom from the government as we go forth on this frontier.
Please consider donating to the defense fund of Ross Ulbricht. Any amount is useful. If for some reason you are unable to donate money, please help spread the word. Educate yourself and then educate others.