Silk Road sentencing approaches, prompting letters from both defense and prosecution

As Ross Ulbricht's Friday sentencing approaches, the mastermind behind Silk Road, as well as his family and friends wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest.
As Ross Ulbricht's Friday sentencing approaches, the mastermind behind Silk Road, as well as his family and friends wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest.

Prior to Ross Ulbricht's sentencing on Friday, both the Silk Road creator and more than 90 people, including his family and fellow inmates, penned letters to U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest pleading for a lenient sentence.

“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,” Ulbricht, 31, wrote. “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.”

Ulbricht faces at least 20 years in prison. He was found guilty in February on the charge of running the Silk Road under the name “Dread Pirate Roberts.”

In his letter, Ulbricht recognized the “terrible mistake” he made in creating and operating the site and acknowledged that it fed into drug addictions.

“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,” he wrote as his letter's final sentence.

Ulbricht's mother, Lyn Ulbricht, wrote: “Even with the shortest possible sentence, Ross will lose what are the most productive, rewarding and important years of his life. I beseech you to make his sentence no longer than necessary and give Ross the chance to rectify his mistakes.”

Ross chose not to testify at his trial, making his letter the first time he's publicly addressed his convictions and actions.

Meanwhile, the prosecution also wrote a letter to Judge Forrest urging her to go beyond the minimum 20 year sentence to reflect the “seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law and to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct.”

Included in the letter were the specifics of six drug-related deaths that the government attributed to Silk Road drugs. One man, for example, was a Microsoft employee who died of a heroin overdose.

On his computer, the letter stated, were two browser windows. One was opened to Tor with the Silk Road website pulled up.

Other stated deaths included teens that overdosed on 25i-NBOMe, a synthetic drug similar to LSD. One boy, Alejandro N., took four hits of the drug before falling out of a chair, completely rigid, the letter stated. He then began having violent seizures, which prompted his friends to call law enforcement. He was pronounced dead upon being transported to the hospital.

Alejandro's friend purchased the drug from a dealer who used the website.

Ulbricht's sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in a Manhattan federal courtroom on Friday.

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