Silk Road Darknet Mastermind Ross Ulbricht Loses Legal Appeal

Silk Road Darknet mastermind Ross Ulbricht has lost his appeal of the life-behind-bars sentence he received for founding and running an online marketplace that made illegal drug purchases virtually a mouse click away.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected arguments by defense lawyers that Ulbricht was deprived of his constitutional right to a fair trial and subjected to a “demonstrably unreasonable” punishment.

The ruling found no legal grounds for reversing Ulbricht’s conviction or 2015 sentence for founding and operating Silk Road. Government evidence showed Ulbricht used the nom de net Dread Pirate Roberts — taken from The Princess Bride novel and movie — to preside over a criminal version of eBay that brought thousands of buyers and sellers together for Bitcoin-funded transactions in illegal drugs.

The trial court “gave Ulbricht’s sentence the thorough consideration that it required, reviewing the voluminous sentencing submissions, analyzing the factors required by law, and carefully weighing Ulbricht’s mitigating legal arguments,” Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch wrote in a 139-page ruling. “Under the law, we cannot say that its decision was substantively unreasonable.”

Accordingly, the three-judge panel affirmed both the trial result and punishment “in all respects.”

Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s lead defense attorney, declined to comment.

Operating from 2011-2013, Silk Road represented a quantum leap in illegal drug trafficking. Buyers and sellers conducted deals collectively valued at roughly $183 million in an obscure area of the Internet via the Tor Network, a digital system that makes exchanges difficult to trace. All transactions were conducted in Bitcoin, an anonymous digital currency.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Kevin McCoy