Ross Ulbricht, the brilliant mastermind behind internet black market SilkRoad, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday.
Shortly after his arrest I heard about the case from an old schoolmate of his who knew him from high school in Austin. He said Ross was known by everyone as a very intelligent and kind young man, and I imagine he still is. When I heard last week he was facing a possible life sentence with a minimum of 20 years. I was devastated.
“20 years!” I remember thinking. “This brilliant, productive, innovative mind will be locked away from society depriving us all of his contributions to the world.”
I thought of how disgusting it was there were mandatory minimums for certain crimes. And prayed even though 20 years was much much too long, the judge would be reasonable, and give him the minimum sentence, given it is already disproportionate to his non violent crimes.
Instead, Judge Katherine Forrest, gave Ulbricht the harshest sentence within her power. A life sentence without the possibility for parole. Her reasoning?
“The stated purpose [of the Silk Road] was to be beyond the law. In the world you created over time, democracy didn’t exist. You were captain of the ship, the Dread Pirate Roberts,” she told Ulbricht as she read the sentence. “Silk Road’s birth and presence asserted that its…creator was better than the laws of this country. This is deeply troubling, terribly misguided, and very dangerous.”
Ulbricht dared to be better than the country he lived in. Ulbricht dared to be ahead of his time, Ulbricht saw the devastation caused, the lives lost, the gangs created, the drug lords made, and the rights violated all because of a war on drugs and used his brilliant mind to create a solution.
Make no mistake, in a society that slaps pedophiles and rapists on the wrist, Ross Ulbricht is sentenced to die behind bars because he dared to question the authority of the state.
Ghandi questioned the authority of the state and strove for a solution. Rosa Parks and MLK questioned the authority of the state and strove for a solution. Thomas Jefferson questioned the authority of the state and strove for a solution, George Washington questioned the authority of the state and strove for a solution.
And the state strove to destroy them in return.
When people set out to change the world, when people set out to make it a more free place, a more peaceful place, they are often met in return with violence. The caging of Ross Ulbricht is itself an act of violence against humanity.
Ulbricht sought to remove the danger, devastation, drug lords, gangs, and crime created by the criminalization of drugs.
Ross Ulbricht succeeded.
Ross showed how substances could be purchased safely, he showed the market had a demand for such products. He showed us by allowing people to peacefully purchase substances and products of their choice, there is far less damage to society than the millions caged, arrested, fined, shot, and killed each year as a result of the war on drugs.
We are all worse off by the caging of this innovative mind. This judge cares nothing of the billions spent by tax payers to cage nonviolent people. This judge cares nothing of the thousands murdered or beaten by gang violence and drug lords. This judge cares nothing about the freedoms we lose every day by creating a militarized police force entrenched enough in our lives to enforce and investigate these petty non-crimes.
Judge Katherine Forrest’s only concern was to embolden the power and scope of the state. Her only concern was to destroy all who questioned its authority. For her heinous crimes, no court will cage her. Our only solace is in knowing one day she will have to answer to God for the devastation she caused her country and the world.