Science & Technology

Government Insists Six People Died as a Result of Silk Road Drug Sales

Ulbricht lawyer Dratel asks for sentencing postponement, and wants to argue about lives potentially saved via Silk Road.


The government seems to want to squeeze the maximum penalty out of its February conviction of Ross Ulbricht for launching and running the darkweb sales site Silk Road, which was used to buy and sell illegal drugs, among other things.

Documents made public show the government insists that at least six people died from using drugs they obtained on Silk Road, and intend to bring parents of two of them to the sentencing hearing.

Because of this late-breaking revelation, Ulbricht's lawyer Josh Dratel wants the sentencing hearing, currently scheduled for May 15, postponed.

From Dratel's letter to Judge Katherine Forrest, in which he maintains the government has not properly proven that the deaths in question were definitely drug related and definitely Silk Road related, he also points out that the government's attempt to make those deaths maximize the punishment Ulbricht might receive ignore the unseen-by-them benefits Silk Road likely brought to many drug users:

the government's introduction of this issue – the Silk Road web site's alleged responsibility for certain deaths, whether or not from substances purchased from vendors on the Silk Road site – makes highly relevant a related issue: the extent to which the Silk Road web site reduced the dangers of substance abuse, and consciously and deliberately incorporated "harm reduction" strategies to implement that objective. In fact, the defense has been in contact with experts, researchers, and others regarding that subject matter, and those resources are preparing materials for the defense to submit as part of its sentencing presentation, which could well include their appearance as witnesses…. Due Process requires that Mr. Ulbricht be sentenced on the basis of accurate information, and the government's presentation of these alleged overdose deaths is clearly designed to influence the Court's sentence. Consequently, Due Process requires that Mr. Ulbricht be afforded sufficient time and opportunity to answer those allegations…

Document links via Ars Technica.

I wrote after Ulbricht's conviction of the enormous likelihood that Silk Road's existence saved and bettered far more likes than it harmed, if imagining a world in which it never existed.

My December Reason feature on the rise and takedown of Silk Road.