Civil Liberties

Ross Ulbricht's Lawyer Josh Dratel Talks After His Client Gets Unjust Life Sentence

Hints at appeals strategy and that untried murder for hire accusations shaped the absurdly excessive life sentence.


Reason TV's Anthony Fisher supplied me with audio from a post-sentencing question-answering session from Ross Ulbricht's lawyer Joshua Dratel today after Ulbricht received a horrifically unjust life without parole for a non-violent first offense of running a website on which people could buy and sell (in relative safety) illegal drugs.

Some highlights from Dratel. He stressed one major fact that will likely be part of the forthcoming appeal: "We know the case agent who made first contact with Dread Pirate Roberts [DEA agent Carl Force] was in fact entirely corrupt and had a confederate Secret Service agent [Shaun Bridges] who was entirely corrupt and we were not permitted to use that information in any respect."

That's even though a homeland security agent from Chicago, Jared Der-Yeghiayan, who was a key anti-Ulbricht witness was in "intimate and regular contact with" those indicted agents. "It's a major issue" and they were "not allowed to mention any of that at trial," Dratel said.

Overall Dratel said he was "disappointed but not surprised" by the sentence, and said out loud something I suggested and wondered about earlier today: that "prejudice of uncharged and unproven conduct [the notorious untried accusations of Ulbricht soliciting bogus murders for hire that never occurred] drove this sentence dramatically. It was not about the crime he was convicted of."

Dratel also feels that testimony from alleged victims' families of Silk Road-enabled overdoses returned us to a less civilized time when "we let victims decide punishment" and he considers that "moving backward." Allowing that to come up in the sentencing was a "transparent appeal to emotion beyond what the crime was."

There were also comments from Ulbricht's parents most of which I could not make out from the audio, though Ms. Lyn Ulbricht was concerned about her harmless, nonviolent son being locked in a violent dangerous place like a maximum security prison. She wondered whether the government considered itself liable for at least two of the supposed "Silk Road deaths" of overdoses from drugs supposedly bought via the site since they happend after the government had "taken control" of the site's servers. still is up for those who want to help fund the appeal of this horrendous injustice.