Convicted Silk Road kingpin Ross Ulbricht has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The 31-year-old was found guilty in February of all charges brought against him, including drugs trafficking, trafficking in fraudulent identity documents, money laundering, computer crime, and the more serious charge of "engaging in a criminal enterprise."
He faced a minimum of 20 years in prison for his crimes, but prosecutors sought – and got – "substantially" more than that.
They told the New York City court that at least six people had died from overdoses related to drugs bought on Silk Road, the encrypted, Tor-based online black market that Ulbricht created in 2011 and operated until his arrest in October 2013. The parents of two of these people gave testimony at Friday's sentencing hearing.
Ulbricht and his attorney Joshua Dratel, meanwhile, had urged the court for leniency. In a letter submitted to the court earlier this week, Ulbricht said he realized he had "ruined my life and destroyed my future" and he begged the judge not to put him away for life, a fate he described as "more similar in nature to a death sentence than it is to a sentence with a finite number of years."
"Even now I understand what a terrible mistake I made," Ulbricht wrote in his letter. "I've had my youth, and I know you must take away my middle years, but please leave me my old age. Please leave a small light at the end of the tunnel, an excuse to stay healthy, an excuse to dream of better days ahead, and a chance to redeem myself in the free world before I meet my maker."
No such luck. The life sentence handed down by US District Judge Katherine Forrest was actually more than prosecutors asked for.
Judge Forrest appeared to have little sympathy for Ulbricht in Friday's hearing. Bloomberg reports that in a statement before handing down her sentence, she described Ulbricht as "a complicated person" who didn't "fit the typical criminal profile"; nonetheless, she said, he was "no better a person than any other drug dealer."
"It was a carefully planned life's work," Forrest said of Silk Road, in comments that reportedly lasted almost an hour. "You wanted it to be your legacy. And it is."
It's not the end of the road for Ulbricht, though; not by a long shot. His lawyers have already said they plan to appeal his conviction. And even then, he still has to stand trial in Maryland – this time, on charges that he tried to pay to have as many as six people killed. ®