Will Trump pardon Silk Road’s founder?
42 days left until Donald Trump cancels his newspapers, locks the White House door, and drops the keys through the letterbox.
But if sections of the crypto community get their way, the president has at least one more piece of important business to attend to.
What’s the story? Some of crypto’s major players are calling on the outgoing US president to “do the right thing” and pardon Silk Road founder, Ross Ulbricht before Joe Biden takes the reins in January.
Who’s that? Ulbricht set up and ran Silk Road between 2011 and 2013, an online bazaar often cited as the very first darkweb marketplace.
With Bitcoin as its payment method of choice, Silk Road grew to be associated with the sale of illegal goods, including drugs, fake passports, and stolen data.
Ulbricht is serving a double life sentence (plus 40 years) for money laundering, computer hacking, and conspiracy to traffic drugs tied to his work on the Silk Road — without the possibility for parole.
Silk Road stats (via Mashable)
- 9,519,664 Bitcoin in revenue*
- 1,229,465 transactions**
- 957,079 accounts***
- 614,305 Bitcoin in commission
- $80,000 allegedly paid by Ulbricht to an undercover FBI agent to kill a former Silk Road employee
- $19,459 Bitcoin in commission paid to Ulbricht in ONE day
- 13,000 listings for drugs****
- 1,670 Bitcoin allegedly paid by Ulbricht to a hitman to kill a Silk Road user who was blackmailing Ulbricht
- 159 listings for “services” ranging from computer hacking to murder-for-hire
- 9 counterfeit IDs on their way to Ulbricht’s apartment when they were intercepted by US Customs and Border Protection
Who’s on his side? Well, quite a few people actually. Morgan Creek Digital Assets co-founder Jason Williams recently tweeted his support for both Ulbricht and whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Williams was swiftly followed by popular community figure Peter McCormack, who also added WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to his wishlist of potential pardons.
Ulbricht’s supporters argue Silk Road offered users the freedom to exchange anything they like, both legal and illegal, and that Ulbricht has been unfairly held responsible for what others sold on the site.
Why now? According to the Supreme Court, the President has ‘unlimited’ power to pardon anybody he sees fit – including himself.
Still, deciding who gets a second chance depends on anything from Trump’s own views to the level of public outcry.
Those calling for convictions to be overturned believe Ulbricht’s sentences are too severe, and say reducing them could go a long way to determining Trump’s legacy in years to come.
Since taking office in 2017, Trump has commuted or rescinded the federal convictions of 45 people, and the hope for Ulbricht’s supporters is to catch the president’s eye on his way out.
Does he have a shot? Well, Ulbricht’s sentence certainly seems on the harsh side, considering you only live once.
Ulbricht’s supporters claim that the Justice Department sought to make an example of him as a warning to others planning to position themselves as the next darkweb kingpin.
And there’s certainly some weight to this argument when you consider that (alleged deals with hitmen aside) Ulbricht’s crimes were essentially non-violent.
Ulbricht’s chances may come down to whether Trump sees the move helping a potential tilt at the top job in 2024, however sad it may be.
*Feb 2011 to July 2013
**Feb 2011 to July 2013
***As of July 2013
****As of Sept 2013