Tag Archives: Ross Ulbricht

Stand With Ross Ulbricht. Shun His Tormentors.

Prosecutor General Vyshinskiy (centre), readin...
Prosecutor General Vyshinskiy (centre), reading the indictment, in 1937 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On May 31, a panel of three judges on the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit upheld the conviction and sentence of American political prisoner Ross Ulbricht.

It’s been two years since I last devoted a column to Ulbricht’s plight, so a refresher seems in order:

After a show trial so obviously fixed in advance that Stalin’s pet prosecutor Andrey Vyshinsky would have blushed with embarrassment to participate in it, judge Katherine Forrest sentenced Ulbricht to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the crime of running a web site. Yes, really.

In theory, the issue was that the site, Silk Road, was used by buyers and sellers of illegal drugs. In fact, it was that someone calling himself “Dread Pirate Roberts” — whom the prosecution alleged was Ross Ulbricht — had created and operated an online marketplace in which business was conducted anonymously and beyond the reach of government regulators.

Forrest denied Ulbricht bail on the prosecution’s claim that he had conspired to commit murder — charges which were used to poison the jury pool and keep the defense from  reviewing the state’s evidence or vetting its witnesses until right before the trial began.

Forrest effectively forbade Ulbricht’s attorneys to present a defense.  The prosecution was allowed to present “evidence” while refusing to disclose how it gathered that evidence. The FBI’s technical claims were admitted; expert witnesses to dispute those claims were excluded. The defense was forbidden to suggest alternate theories of the identity of “Dread Pirate Roberts.” The prosecution withheld, until after the trial, the information that two of its own agents were on their way to prison for corrupt activities during, and bearing on, the investigation.

The polite language of procedural appeal in criminal cases is “reversible error” by the judge. But Katherine Forrest didn’t fumble around and screw things up. She intentionally fixed the trial at every opportunity, for the express purpose of seeing Ross Ulbricht convicted of, and giving him the maximum possible sentence for, “crimes” for which he deserved not a day in prison even if he had in fact done the things he was accused of.

In any sane universe, Ross Ulbricht would be a free man and Katherine Forrest would be removed from the bench, disbarred, and sued down to her last dime for damages.

Instead of correcting this massive injustice, federal appellate judges Jon O. Newman, Gerard E. Lynch, and Christopher F. Droney chose to ignore the plain facts, become Katherine Forrest’s co-conspirators, uphold her clearly criminal actions, and keep Ross Ulbricht caged.

Hopefully, the legal saga isn’t over and justice will eventually be served in higher courts or through presidential commutation of the unjust sentence.

Socially, these robed evil-doers deserve to be shunned by all good people. They shouldn’t be able to get tables at restaurants or drinks at bars. Their clergy of choice should withhold communion until they repent and make restitution. We probably can’t make their lives as miserable as they’ve made Ross Ulbricht’s. But we should try.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) 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.

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Un-Reasonable: Feds Declare War on Web Commenters

Liberty Leading the People
Liberty Leading the People (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve previously written about Ross Ulbricht, an American political prisoner sentenced to life for the “crime” of running a business without the US government’s permission. Among libertarians, the response to Ulbricht’s abduction and show trial has been, in some cases, less than polite and temperate. Now, the state is moving against its critics.

Last week, as Ken White of Popehat reports, the US Department of Justice served Reason — a popular libertarian magazine and web site — with a grand jury subpoena demanding that it provide “any and all identifying information” it possesses regarding certain commenters on reporter Nick Gillespie’s coverage of Ulbricht’s sentencing.

Some of those commenters, it seems, waxed less than respectful of Katherine Forrest, the thug — er, “judge” — who ratified Ulbricht’s abduction and ordered it extended for life.

One or two of those commenters suggested that she should suffer the torments of hell, either in the afterlife or this one. Others referenced the use of a wood chipper to dispose of a body in the film Fargo as fitting punishment for her actions.

Just to be perfectly clear here, I agree 100% with the tone of those comments. While I have not publicly made such suggestions — I’ve limited myself to suggesting that she be thoroughly ostracized, that all persons of good character shun her — I really can’t think of any penalty that goes too far for what she has done and, presumably, intends to continue doing.

I have every right to such an opinion, and to its expression. So do you. Those rights are even enshrined in “the supreme law of the land” in which Forrest committed her atrocities (it’s in the First Amendment to the US Constitution).

This is, in a word, an outrage. But it gets worse.

The feds wanted Reason to keep the subpoena secret. It’s unclear whether they’ve issued a formal “gag order” in connection with the subpoena, but the document itself says that “[t]he Government hereby requests that you voluntarily refrain from disclosing the existence of the subpoena to any third party.”

So: The US government is trying to track down people who say things it doesn’t like — things which no reasonable person could construe as “true threats” — for possible prosecution (grand juries don’t subpoena people to offer them coffee and donuts). And it doesn’t want you to know it’s doing that.

Let that sink in. If you’ve ever doubted for a minute that America is becoming a police state, this chain of events should settle the question once and for all. The US government has declared war on free speech and the free press. It has declared war on YOU. Will you fight back?

[hat tip — Wendy McElroy]

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.

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Ross Ulbricht is a Political Prisoner

RGBStock.com Prison Photo

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.

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