Maine State Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin), one of a select few Republican state officials invited to President Joe Biden’s event in Auburn, used the opportunity to urge the Commander-in-Chief to grant clemency to Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the infamous Silk Road who is serving life in prison.
“Welcome to Auburn, ME!” Sen. Brakey wrote in a letter provided to Biden’s team.
“Please consider clemency for Ross Ulbricht. Life in prison for building a website is cruel and unusual punishment,” Brakey wrote.
Ulbricht launched the Silk Road, an darknet marketplace where individuals the world over could purchase goods and services, in 2011 under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts.
The site used exclusively bitcoin for transactions and helped to popularize the fledgling monetary system. The site came to be used primarily for trafficking in illegal drugs.
The anonymity of the transactions — and the open trade in illegal goods and services — quickly attracted the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which shuttered the site in 2013.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Ulbricht, the Silk Road facilitated more than 9.5 million bitcoin worth of transactions before it was shutdown.
Ulbricht was indicted on charges of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, distributing narcotics, distributing narcotics by means of the Internet, and four conspiracy charges related to distribution of narcotics, computer hacking, money laundering, and enabling the sale of false identity documents.
A jury found him guilty of seven of those charges, including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and computer hacking.
In 2015, Ulbricht was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
He is currently incarcerated at a federal facility in Tucson.
As part of its investigation, the FBI seized more than 150,000 bitcoin from Ulbricht’s devices — an amount that would be worth $4.4 billion today.
Since his arrest and imprisonment, Ulbricht has become a heroic martyr figure for both libertarians and bitcoiners, often mentioned alongside Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.
More than half a million Americans have signed a petition urging the U.S. government to release Ulbricht, including former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul, actor Keanu Reeves, political commentator John Stossel, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, linguist Noam Chomsky, Ohio Congressman Warren Davidson, and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Ulbricht’s defenders believe that his sentence was overly harsh, especially considering that several defendants who used his website to sell narcotics received less than ten year sentences.
In an Oct. 27, 2022 letter to Biden, Ulbricht pleaded for release.
“I am writing from a federal penitentiary where I just started my tenth year of a life sentence without parole,” Ulbricht wrote. “Before this, I had never been in trouble with the law, and none of my convictions were violent. I would like to tell you how I got here and what I am doing to show you that I don’t need to be kept here for the rest of my life.”
“I long to have a future once more. My fiancée has stood by me for all these years. We dream of getting married and starting a family. My mother has cancer, a heart condition and lives alone,” he said.
“I am failing as a son and a husband.”