The Kingpin of the Silk Road Was Just Sentenced to Life in Prison

Ross Ulbricht, the first great kingpin of underground online marketplace Silk Road, was sentenced to life in prison Friday afternoon.

The 31-year-old founder and operator of the notorious Dark Web bazaar best known for facilitating hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit sales — running the gamut from hardcore narcotics to fake IDs to hitmen — stood in front of two overflowing courtrooms in downtown New York to plead that he'd become a changed man. But presiding Judge Katherine Forrest had none of it.

"[The Silk Road was] a planned, comprehensive and deliberate scheme to do that which was unlawful and posed a serious danger to our head," she said. "It was your opus."

Before prosecution and defense gave their final statements, two parents, one from Boston and the other from Perth, Australia, shakily walked the court through the lives of their children, who died as the result of taking drugs ordered on Silk Road.  

The words moved Ulbricht to tears as he gave his final statement. "I'm not the man I was when I created Silk Road," he said, wearing the prison garb from his prior 20 months locked up. "I wish I could go back. ... I've essentially ruined my life. ... I would never break the law again."

His defense didn't move the judge. "You're a criminal," Forrest said. 

Ulbricht wasn't given the 20-year mandatory minimum he requested. He was given life, and a request to forfeit more than $183 million, thanks to numerous counts: narcotics trafficking, distribution via the Internet, narcotic traffic conspiracy, committing money laundering and even soliciting multiple murders for hire against oppositions to his business.

He was a man touted on the Internet as a defender of freedom and free speech. He was reduced to a well-educated drug dealer with a dark side who stopped at nothing to build his empire. As of Friday, he'll spend the rest of his life behind bars.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Max Plenke

Max Plenke is a staff writer at Mic, where he covers breaking news, climate science, health and the future. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ and Wallpaper. Send story tips to max@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Will Justice Anthony Kennedy retire at end of Supreme Court term? Here's what we know.

Rumors that the 80-year-old swing justice may leave the bench are fueling fear of a second Trump pick on the nation's high court.

3 states and D.C. allow same flammable building materials behind Grenfell Tower fire

The causes of London's Grenfell Tower are similar to the justifications used to waive fire regulations in the U.S.

New Jersey bill would require kids to be taught how to interact with police

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade would receive the education.

UK Parliament hit with cyberattack

Members of Parliament had difficulty accessing their emails Saturday in the wake of the attack.

Istanbul LGBT pride march banned by government for safety concerns

A right-wing nationalist group has vowed to stop the protest.

Compounds seized by US in December reportedly contained material useful in Russia probe

The Trump administration has reportedly been considering returning the New York and Maryland compounds to Russia.

Will Justice Anthony Kennedy retire at end of Supreme Court term? Here's what we know.

Rumors that the 80-year-old swing justice may leave the bench are fueling fear of a second Trump pick on the nation's high court.

3 states and D.C. allow same flammable building materials behind Grenfell Tower fire

The causes of London's Grenfell Tower are similar to the justifications used to waive fire regulations in the U.S.

New Jersey bill would require kids to be taught how to interact with police

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade would receive the education.

UK Parliament hit with cyberattack

Members of Parliament had difficulty accessing their emails Saturday in the wake of the attack.

Istanbul LGBT pride march banned by government for safety concerns

A right-wing nationalist group has vowed to stop the protest.

Compounds seized by US in December reportedly contained material useful in Russia probe

The Trump administration has reportedly been considering returning the New York and Maryland compounds to Russia.