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The conviction and sentencing of Ross Ulbricht opens new legal territory. It will set precedent for the digital age and pave the way for new laws that could impact the future and freedom of the internet. Bad law could be ushered in that we will be forced to live with.
Ross received a double life sentence for all non-violent charges. This is a more severe sentence than many murderers, rapists, kidnappers or child pornographers. It is a more severe sentence than Charles Manson’s. Manson is eligible for parole. Ross is not. This is unprecedented for something a person has done with a computer.
The government is sending several messages with the Silk Road case. Among them are:
We can put you away using digital evidence:
Despite previous precedent (US v Vayner) the Silk Road trial asserted that solid, provable, tangible evidence is not needed to send a person to prison. Chats, emails and screen shots are enough. Digital evidence is unreliable and cannot be authenticated in terms of who created it. It is easily and quickly created, faked, edited, manipulated, hacked. Any digital file can be planted, including a bitcoin wallet. Mortgage companies won’t accept a screenshot of a bank statement for its unreliability. Whether or not you believe the prosecution’s evidence against Ross, the fact is that the standard of evidence has been lowered.
Fourth Amendment protections do not apply in the digital world:
Law enforcement went on a fishing expedition through Ross’ laptop, facebook and gmail accounts, to find whatever they could. If they had rummaged this way through his house, desk or file cabinet it would be unconstitutional. The Silk Road prosecution says that because it was digital information it isn’t protected. This is an important privacy question in the digital age, when most of us keep our lives on our computers and phones.
We will use your political views against you:
The judge referenced Ross’s political views to justify her draconian sentence, calling them “troubling” and “dangerous.” The First Amendment protects political speech and prohibits using political views to imprison someone.
We will continue to wage the Drug War with all our might:
Although viewed by the majority of Americans as a colossal waste and disaster, the government said it was making Ross an example in their Drug War and made it clear it was doubling down on its failed policy.
This case is not just about Ross Ulbricht. It has far-reaching implications for privacy and freedom. As attorney Scott Greenfield said in regard to this case: “This is the birth of law as applied to our digital future. Watch it as a spectator at your peril.”
We firmly believe that Ross’s sentence is excessive and that the punishment does not fit the crime. Ross is appealing the sentence, as well as the verdict and pre-trial issues. But this is a complex, ground breaking case, and a very expensive one. We are a regular family taking on a giant fight. It will take much more money than we have to win this.
We can’t do this alone. Every gift of any amount will help. Please donate here: http://freeross.org/donate-now-2/