Bitcoin was supposed to be perfectly anonymous and completely untraceable: so much so that its true believers, such as libertarian Ross Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts, felt empowered to launch the Silk Road, an underground online shopping bazaar similar to Amazon only one selling drugs and various other illegal paraphernalia.
The Silk Road quickly became massively successful and extremely profitable: so much so that Ulbricht promptly forgot the idealism that made him launch the project and quickly subverted the power and wealth it provided him for his own selfish ways, among which ordering the assassinations of subordinates who crossed him.
It turned out neither Bitcoin, nor the project, were as safe and anonymous as Ulbricht had hoped, and moments ago the Dread Pirate was sentenced to life in prison: a heavy sentence which according to the WSJ signals "the government’s seriousness in combating Internet crime."
The Silk Road founder faced a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison, but federal prosecutors asked the judge to give him “substantially” more than that, arguing that a harsh sentence is necessary to deter others from following in Mr. Ulbricht’s footsteps.
The punishment is a heavy price to pay for the 31-year-old, who had pleaded with the judge to spare him his old age and “leave a small light at the end of the tunnel.”
The sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest followed an emotional three-hour hearing. Judge Forrest said she spent more than 100 hours grappling with the appropriate sentence, calling the decision “very, very difficult.”
But ultimately, she gave Mr. Ulbricht the harshest sentence allowed under the law, saying Silk Road was “an assault on the public health of our communities” by making it easy for people around the world to buy illegal drugs.
“What you did with Silk Road was terribly destructive to our social fabric,” Judge Forrest said.
Judge Forrest said Mr. Ulbricht was “no better a person than any other drug dealer” and that his high education and privileged upbringing didn’t put him above the law.
Silly pirate: in America the only companies that are allowed by law to sell you drugs are the 'legal' pharmaceutical corporations, whose dealers owners use all those Obamacare-funded reimbursements from selling FDA approved anti-depressants and other mind-altering substances, to then go ahead and buy back their own stock.
And yet, it is a little troubling:
For manipulating "markets", rigging and defrauding tens of billions from ordinary investors many of whom lost their life savings because they trusted regulators would do their duty and keep "markets" honest and efficient, the US Department of Justice arrested precisely zero bankers.
For granting the 2018 World Cup to Russia, the same Department of Justice decided to make a loud political statement and arrest virtually the entire pinnacle of FIFA, even if the harshest sentence that will be handed down is some deferred prosecution settlement.
For creating his own marketplace outside the domain of the conventional monetary regime, the US unloaded a ton of bricks on a 31 year old and sentenced him to life behind bars. Because, you know, it will deter all illegal transactions hereafter.
For those who are interested in the full story of the Silk Road and how a 29-year-old revolutionized drug distribution, the following 2-part mini series by Wired is a must read.