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Ross Ulbricht Reflects on Life in Prison; New Proof of Evidence-Tampering by Law Enforcement

Ross Ulbricht before his arrest
Ross Ulbricht before his arrest

Today, in a breaking development, Ross Ulbricht’s defense team has revealed that on November 18, 2013, someone logged into accounts on the Silk Road forum associated with “Dread Pirate Roberts” (DPR) while Ulbricht was already in custody following his arrest on October 1. Along with evidence that evidence-tampering may have taken place, this fact was documented in a discovery letter this week by his legal team.

The revelation follows last year’s conviction of Drug Enforcement agent, Carl Mark Force IV, and Secret Service / NSA agent, Shaun Bridges, both of whom were Silk Road investigators. Both used pseudonyms to pilfer bitcoins from the site, and attempted to extort money from DPR. In addition, they both had high-level admin access to the site, with the ability to access accounts, manipulate data and change passwords.

In 2013, Ulbricht was arrested for running Silk Road as DPR, a multimillion dollar online enterprise popular with drug dealers and others engaging in anonymous transactions. He was later sentenced to life without parole plus 40 years on five non-violent counts: Distribution of Narcotics by Means of the Internet; Continuing Criminal Enterprise; Conspiracy to Commit and Aid and Abet Computer Hacking; Conspiracy to Traffic in Fraudulent Identity Documents; and, Money Laundering Conspiracy. Early in the case there were also allegations of murder-for-hire schemes involving Ulbricht, but he was not charged with them at trial and they have never been substantiated.

Federal authorities have cast Ulbricht as generally dangerous, a potential threat to society. Others with more of a libertarian, anarcho-capitalist bent go so far as to assert that he is being made an example of for having the audacity to champion freedom and liberty.

Throughout Ross’ journey of imprisonment, his mother Lyn Ulbricht has been his biggest champion. She has doggedly persisted in advocating for his release, traveling the world to speak at freedom festivals and events while garnering thousands of dollars in support of her son’s appeal. She has been a lightning rod for public discourse on topics ranging from due process rights and sentencing laws to fair trials and internet rights.

In an exclusive interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Lyn shared the contents of a letter written to her by Ross from prison. With her permission, below are a few excerpts that he shared about his imprisonment and the wisdom he has garnered from the experience:

On the Brutal Realities of Prison Life

The scope of my life became very narrow once I was locked up. My contact with the outside was limited to an hour visit each week, 300 phone minutes, letters and whatever was on TV and the radio. My diet was, well…let’s just say it’s not what I’d like it to be. And my social circle became the 99 other prisoners in my unit and a handful of regular guards. This was shocking on a visceral level, like being thrown in an ice bath. The contrast with freedom was especially intense because I spent the first six weeks in different levels of isolation.

Settling Into Life Among the General Prison Population

Once I’d been released from solitary into the general population and somewhat settled into my new reality, the war within truly began. It started with boredom. There were very few things to distract me during the many hours of the day. I did what I could to prepare my defense. I played ping pong for hours on end. I had textbooks sent in to study. I read several books every month. I took up yoga and practiced diligently for months and months. Eventually the distractions wore thin and a kind of subtle panic set in.

On Handling Day-to-Day Prison Life

There’s another route I’ve seen some men take in here and I’ve done my best to emulate them. The first who taught me how to do time had spent 12 years in maximum security penitentiaries. I noticed he was never in a rush. Crossing his path could turn into an hour-long conversation about anything, either serious or funny, but never dull. He taught me acceptance.

“You have to confront the horror of your situation, come to grips with it and accept where you’re at,” he said to me one day as we sat chatting in his cell. “Give yourself a pass for a few days, maybe a week. Don’t worry about anything else and just feel the sadness, the fear, the loss, but don’t wallow in it for too long either. Get back to your yoga and the rest of your routine when you’re done.

A Major Revelation

This hit home recently when I was locked in (with) my last cell mate. The facility I’m in is widely regarded as one of the most constrained and difficult to live in. I realized, even if I spend the rest of my life behind bars as I’ve been sentenced to do, I’ll never be worse off than right now.

“I got this,” I thought. “No matter what happens I can get through it and come out better on the other side.” I looked over at my cellmate, who was looking kinda bored, and a silly impulse hit me. I kneeled next to him where he lay on his bunk and held his gaze in mock seriousness.

“We got this,” I whispered intensely.

The full text of Ross’s letter can be found on the FreeRoss.org website.

Lyn Ulbricht: “We Only Know The Tip of the Iceberg”

“Ross is a wonderful person, as the 100 letters written to the judge (and posted at FreeRoss.org) demonstrate,” said Lyn Ulbricht in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine. “He is no danger to anyone, but on the contrary could contribute to others and his community if set free. In addition, he did not receive a fair trial, as his appeal argues. Rather, it was a travesty of justice that must be rectified.”

With respect to the recent revelations that could prove significant in his case, Lyn comments:

“We have recently learned that someone using the Dread Pirate Roberts account logged into the Silk Road forum nearly seven weeks after Ross was arrested. A record of this was buried deep within the five to six terabytes the government produced in the discovery. The evidence shows that the last login by DPR was made November 18, 2013, four days before the Silk Road forum was taken offline on November 22, 2013. Ross Ulbricht was arrested on Oct. 1, 2013, and has been in custody ever since.”

Lyn says that the recently uncovered evidence is mentioned in the demand for additional discovery that was sent to the AUSA in Maryland:

“There is a record in the database for every account, showing the most recent login. We don’t know when that person or persons originally gained access, or how many times they logged into Silk Road as DPR. We don’t know how many DPRs there were. What we now know from the discovery evidence provided by the government is that the last time someone using the DPR account logged into the Silk Road Forum was November 18, 2013, when Ross Ulbricht had been in prison for nearly seven weeks.”

She continues:

“Joshua Dratel, Ross' lawyer, said a long time ago that we only know the tip of the iceberg regarding the corruption in this case. This week we have seen another big chunk of ice revealed: evidence tampering and apparently at least one additional DPR. If this backup of the forum database had not been saved or discovered; if logins made by DPR after Ross' arrest were not found, no one would be the wiser. This begs the question: how much more is there? Unfortunately we may never know, as it's the nature of digital evidence that it's easily changed, planted or deleted without a trace. That my son — or anyone — would get a life sentence without parole based on vulnerable digital evidence, especially when it's been corrupted, puts us all in peril.”

Throughout her son’s imprisonment, Lyn says that her main fear is that his time spent behind bars would break his spirit. But she notes that Ross has shown great strength, both mentally and emotionally. “Of course he has his down times, but he pulls himself out of it. He has worked at being intentionally positive in a very tough place, and makes a point of contributing to fellow inmates in many ways, including tutoring, teaching classes and being a good example.”

Lyn says she tires of hearing the myths being perpetuated in the media and otherwise regarding Ross and Silk Road. “Anyone who knows Ross will tell you that it is absurd to depict him as a thuggish kingpin who would advocate violence to protect his empire. And it is important to note that murder-for-hire charges were never made at trial. Ross is not motivated by money or power, but rather is committed to his ideals of freedom and peace. This is obvious in his writings, and to anyone who knows him.”

Amid the ongoing flow of new information pouring in about Ulbricht’s case, public support for his release continues to grow. This Sunday, December 4 from 2-10 p.m. EST, a Free Ross-A-Thon livestream is being hosted by FreeRoss.org to bring awareness to Ross Ulbricht’s Silk Road trial, and to raise funds for the printing and binding of Ulbricht’s appeal documents.

The livestream will feature well known bitcoiners, economists, activists, policy analysts, historians, filmmakers, musicians and thought leaders, including Jeffrey Tucker, Jeff Berwick, Roger Ver, Jesse Ventura, Brian Doherty, Carla Gericke, Tatiana Moroz, Tom Woods, Bob Murphy, Doug Casey, and the Ulbricht family among many others.

In terms of what’s next for Ross in the new year, Lyn says, “He will probably receive the appellate court's ruling on his appeal and will then know if he will be allowed a new trial. If he is, hopefully this time it will be a fair one in which the jury is told all the evidence.”

Michael Scott

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