In early February, federal jurors convicted Ross Ulbricht on seven charges relating to the operations of the Silk Road online marketplace. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
As documented in Alex Winter’s film Deep Web, calling the three-week farce preceding these convictions a “show trial” insults both shows and trials. The fix was in from the beginning.
The “judge,” one Katherine Forrest, consistently and flagrantly acted as a dedicated member of the prosecution team. She neither required the government to prove its case nor allowed Ulbricht’s attorneys to actually present a defense.
Forrest denied Ulbricht bail on the prosecution’s charges of conspiracy to commit murder. After those charges were dropped from the indictment — their sole purpose apparently being to poison the jury well in advance — she allowed them to be used to justify hiding witness identities, and thousands of pages of discovery material, from the defense until a few days before trial.
She excused the prosecution from revealing how it had located and seized Silk Road’s servers, allowing evidence that appears to have been the “poisoned fruit” of illegal warrantless searches. She forbade the defense to present its theory of the alleged “crimes” involving other suspects or to dissect the FBI’s technical claims using expert witnesses.
At every juncture, Forrest acted not with a view toward reaching truth or justice, but with the sole and overriding aim of getting a conviction.
And the actual charges? Boiled down, they consist of this:
Ross Ulbricht was accused and convicted of operating a business, which coordinated the sale and purchase of goods between willing sellers and willing buyers, without the permission of people who think they’re entitled to control everyone else. Full stop. THAT is what Ross Ulbricht stands convicted of.
Ross Ulbricht was convicted of living his life as a free human being instead of as a compliant, obedient slave.
The state can’t tolerate free human beings. They call its own necessity into question and must be made examples of whenever possible.
Tyrants like US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) — who made shutting down Silk Road a government priority — and bureaucratic thugs like US Attorney Preet Bharara and judge Katherine Forrest, who enforced his will, are the sworn and eternal enemies of freedom. Ross Ulbricht is their political prisoner. So long as we permit them to continue in power, so are we.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.