Life Imprisonment

My letter to Ross Ulbricht
Scott Putnam

A beautiful young man is rotting in a Tucson Arizona prison, serving two life sentences.

Ross Ulbrict started an Ebay-like website called SilkRoad. But he is not serving time for this notoriety. He is serving time because he exposed the lies and deception at the FBI.


You can read about Ross, and sign his petition for clemency here. I decided to publish my private letter from 2019- a response to his Medium article on life imprisonment and torture because many people are unaware that his obscenely severe punishment is for revealing the deceptions at the FBI, not the SilkRoad. Ross exposed those lies in his legal defense. He did not understand the evil nature of liars. When you expose an embarrassing lie, they will stop at nothing to silence you. Their singular focus is to keep the the lies hidden.

Lies Destroy Lives

Hi Ross-

I don’t know you personally but rarely a day passes when I don’t think of you. Isn’t that strange?

It is your obscenely harsh prison sentence compared to murderers and violent criminals that bedevils my mind. The scales of justice are so out of proportion – it is cosmic scale injustice! And my brain toils constantly about your predicament. Why? How? Where?

  1. Were you particularly unlucky with a cruel and stupid judge?
  2. Did you have poor legal representation?
  3. Are facts around the SilkRoad website, Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), Bitcoin embezzlement and the “murder-for-hire” allegations too complex for the average citizen or jury? Were you found guilty because the gap between your declared innocence, and the false allegations by the government so huge, that the jury conservatively decided to draw the line of guilt “somewhere in the middle”?

While I think about you daily, I don’t obsess out of any abnormal compassion or hero worship. I suppose I have a reasonable amount of human sympathy for your situation. But I am obsessed with understanding why the justice system gave you double-life-imprisonment for running a website. Literally, a website! What possibly could scare the judge so much that she gave you 2 life sentences?

Almost all commercial websites have some degree of illegal transactions, be it fraud or scams or merchandizing of stolen goods. And there is no a street corner in America without drugs for sale. Something much more sinister is happening here. It is impossible that you received 2 life sentences for the “statutory crimes” of which you are alleged.

I begin by answering all three questions in the negative, then expand on them below:

  1. No, your life imprisonment sentence was not due to a capricious judge, but rather the sentence was probable with any normal or average judge.
  2. No, your legal team was competent, perhaps too competent. Your crack defense team exposed corruption, embezzlement and “fake murder theater” by the FBI. Your crime was not founding the SilkRoad website, but – counter-intuitively -exposing the crimes at the FBI.
  3. No, a fair legal assessment of your danger to society was not derailed by the technical complexity of the dark web and Bitcoin. It was not a mis-carriage of justice by confusion. The “technical complexity narrative” was a deliberate strategy by the prosecution, to deflect an inquiry into the behavior of the FBI. Any average citizen had the capacity to evaluate the technical details of your case.

These hypotheses (1) unlucky judge, (2) poor legal representation, and (3) technical complexity are all falsified and discussed below. And there is no particular greed or money interest by the Judge – that is easily dismissed.

Insteadyour extreme prison sentence (2x Life imprisonment + 40 years !) is proportional to the degree of personal fear and psychological dissonance the Judge felt when you were in the court room.

In fact, your extreme sentence was not a random strike of lightning, or a consequence of improbable events. Rather your extreme sentence was likely, even predictable. But to understand why, it is critical to update the purpose of the criminal justice system. Be warned, the purpose is not “justice”, it is something else.

Here is my answer to your obscene injustice:

The reason you received a “double life imprisonment”, is that you are a grave threat to the Judge personally. You offended her belief system of justice and the stereotype of a criminal. You don’t look like a criminal, nor act like a criminal, nor speak like a criminal. You do not have the common emotions like jealousy, revenge and greed. Even worse, your thoughtful essays on how to make the world a better place, and that SilkRoad was creating a voluntary and peaceful society revealed its altruistic motivations.

The judge thought she was going to look (down) into the eyes of an alleged murderer (i.e. Ross Ulbricht)… and what she found was a person who was better than herself. She discovered that you are more virtuous, more talented, more morally composed, than even a rosy-eyed opinion of herself. You did not play the stereotype character of a “murderer” or “criminal” for her legal cinema. Your presence revealed facts about your benevolent character made you the most insufferable person on planet earth to the judge. She resented your virtue, and she had to silence you, forever!

Jesus Christ was also crucified for being “too good and virtuous”. Famously, Christ was not charged with any crimes. It was his virtue that made him insufferable to the mob, and he had to be crucified on a cross, not just exiled or persecuted.

When your defense team exposed the corruption of the FBI regarding your case: including the theft of Bitcoin, the blackmail of DPR and the fake staging of murder, the actual criminal activity in your case was revealed. The FBI was the one with criminal egg all over its face. Your legal defense team showed convincingly who the actual criminal was. Your defense team was competent and capable.

The Judge faced two unbearable truths:

  • The alleged murderer, aka the evil genius, Ross Ulbricht is revealed to be a kind-hearted soul.
  • The alleged purveyor of truth, aka the FBI, is revealed to be fraudulently faking evidence and stealing, and using mafia-style tactics.

Immediately the Judge’s head exploded with cognitive dissonance at these facts. The so-called “bad guy” is possibly the best guy she ever encountered in her real, fleshy life… and her trustworthy law enforcement, the purveyors of facts and evidence, i.e. “the good guys” have been caught red-handed lying and stealing and staging fake murders. The lies and deceptions by the FBI were truly outrageous.

A courageous Judge might have updated her prior beliefs about good and bad guys, and ruled on the obvious facts in the case in front of her.

But rarely are people courageous – that is one of the few predictable human traits.

The psychological terror the Judge felt, because it challenged everything about the Justice System and everything she had dedicated her life to, became unbearable. Because she was terrorized by fear, existential-type fear, she had to crush you. Demonize you. Destroy you. The revelations in your criminal defense were “unbearable” to her professional allegiance to the criminal justice system. You had to be silenced, forever, so the Truth surrounding your case would never be revealed. You posed a “clear and present danger” to her Cinema of Justice.

The Judge decided to cage you for the rest of you life, and silence you physically, but your detailed story in the media is still a threat to the underlying narratives about fairness and due process in the criminal justice system. Your reputation was smeared in the media for the same purpose: to stifle your story and prevent the unbearable truths from being revealed. Smearing a person, or character assassination, is only another form of “caging a person” to prevent social interaction. The media wants to ostracize you from society (destroying your trustworthiness) the same way the Judge wanted to cage you physically from society.

The media campaign against you was not the plot of some poorly-informed or hit-job type journalism. Rather the media campaign against you is the collective action of cowardly people, including journalists, pundits and even friends. Collectively they do not represent a “few rotten apples”, but a general lack of courage to face the uncomfortable truth about your “double life-sentence”. It is unallowable to consider that justice system could fail on such a colossal scale. Instead the media cowardly reports that you, Ross, must be a monstrous person and must deserve a double-life sentence. They cover their eyes to reality, pinch their nose, plug their ears and hope you disappear as a challenge to their fragile psyche.

When the full-story about SilkRoad is hidden from view, or obscured in complexity, then court and public opinion can make a binary emotional decisions. Either A) Ross is a despicable criminal up to some shady (but exactly unknown) crime, or B) admit that the FBI is corrupt and that the bedrock of society, the “scales of justice” are contaminated. When posed as binary choice between A and B, it seems obvious why almost everybody chooses A. Very few humans have the courage to challenge a societal narrative- and think outside the box. Instead most people prefer to silence, or cage people who present unequivocal proof that a societal narrative is flawed or broken.

Galileo served a life sentence, for revealing the obvious truth that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Any sensibly-aware person knew that Galileo was correct in the 15th century, and even the Catholic church did not dispute his facts or evidence. Instead, they imprisoned him. It is a lack of courage by the Judge and Jury, not evidence, that is responsible for your imprisonment, just as it was for the imprisonment of Galileo.

It is too simplistic to believe that your double-life sentence was issued because the judge was unusually cruel or that the overall court system is overtly tilted towards prosecutors over defendants with a 90% conviction rate. Both of those things are true in general, but the cosmic severity of your sentence is due to the mental fragility of the Judge and jury. Your proportional guilt or innocence never mattered to the Judge, she acted to protect her own emotional balance. It was your “relative goodness”, compared to her personally, that sealed your fate.

I would like to meet you personally, and get to know you. In fact, from all the actual evidence and your writings, you appear as someone I should aspire towards. You are an inspiration for all people. I read all your articles on Medium, and your Twitter feed, and I hope they keep coming. People on the outside are listening.

Here I respond directly to your comments about life imprisonment being a “form of torture” , a copy of the article is enclosed.

I agree with your observation that life-imprisonment is worse than the most violent form of torture:

Nothing to live for day after day, “spirits crushed, hope abandoned and relegated to irrelevance”.

But this torture is not due an overly zealous judicial system swinging towards vengeance over caution. In my view this is another false societal-scale narrative about the criminal justice system. Many prisoners are locked away in inhumane conditions because the authorities want them removed from public sight and most of all they want them silenced. “Embarrassing Truth” is the real enemy of powerful authorities, and they will torture people – life imprisonment – to keep the Truth hidden.

Overall prisoners are not in a cage for proportional punishment or rehabilitation or anything relative to the severity the crime. Instead they are locked in a cage to satisfy the psychological fears and fragility of the people on the outside. Normal citizens can sleep soundly at night, and go to work productively if they believe the “criminals are locked up” and that the Police and FBI will protect them from bad guys. It is no different than a parent reassuring a child that there are no monsters under the bed.

It does not matter to Police or authorities if the “Real and Actual” criminals are locked up. The scales of justice never mattered to them. It only matters that citizens believe that all the criminals are locked up. Judges do not calculate on a cost/benefit analysis that some innocent people will get caught up in the system, and that mistakes happen. No, this rational calculation does not happen in Courts. We know that the prisons are full of innocent people. Instead Police and authorities act willfully to preserve the theater for citizens on the outside that all the criminals are locked up, and they ignore the scales of justice, measuring innocence vs. Guilt.

It is not necessary to commit any crime and still end up in prison. In fact, the most severe prison sentences are reserved for innocent people who expose lies and deceptions in their defense.

We are all familiar with the TSA at the airport, which catches hidden weapons with less than 20% efficiency, based on their own audits. The TSA is just security theater to make people feel safe. It is not about catching the terrorist before boarding the plane, but theater to make average flyers “feel safe”. The prison system is similar, it is judicial theater to make citizens believe the criminals have been removed from society. It was never about catching real criminals, or reducing real crime, or re-rehabilitating psychopaths, or even carefully weighing the preponderance of evidence. It is just theater for fragile citizens.

More innocent people have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to jail for gruesome murders (particularly of a girl or child), than rightfully and actual guilty murderers. The local citizens want to know with 100% certainty that the criminal was caught, and quickly removed from the public. They are more worried about a “murderer lurking in their neighborhood” than they care about justice being served. The Police and courts comply with this public mob, and know that revealing any uncertainty or doubt in the court about who the murderer is, ruins their judicial theater.

The reduction in psychological fear is the goal of the criminal justice system, not actual justice. Many innocent people rot in prison because of this judicial theater.

Listen carefully to normal people talk about law enforcement. When they have something critical to say about a law enforcement situation, it is always prefaced with “Yes, I know… 99% of Police or Judges are good people , BUT in this particular case it failed because of X,Y,Z.” This ubiquitous “preface” is a tell for the societal narrative, and defines a threshold you are not allowed to cross when speaking. If your cross that threshold, and demonstrate that the criminal justice system is fatally flawed, and the Police system corrupt…. then they will crucify you. Hell hath no mercy when exposing the corruption of the Police.

Ross, I think you were condemned to life-imprisonment by your gentle and virtuous nature. That is the predictable consequences of our judicial theater. However when I think about how your prison sentence could have been lighter or different. I have some speculative ideas:

Imagine as a a scenario you had taken a different defense strategy to the court, not one based on facts and evidence, but one based on the emotional reaction of judge and jurors. What if you took the following approach with the defense team:

  • You said SilkRoad was secretly run as a Ukrainian website and with Russian investors?
  • You purposely got fat by gaining an extra 100 lbs, and looked disheveled and played the “movie character” of an evil villain.
  • You appeared mentally disabled (deranged) or in wheelchair wheelchair like Paul Manafort or carried a cane like Harvey Weinstein. Their lawyers created these emotional impressions on purpose for the jury.
  • In your testimony you spoke with occasional profanity in the court and showed your public flaws. What if you demonstrated to the Judge and jury that you were beneath them in status, intelligence, and morality. Not above them.
  • You said you that you “cheated your employees” and “skimmed money from customers” on SilkRoad.

I surmise that if you confirmed to the judge and jurors “belief system” that you looked like a criminal, and acted out some B-movie scenes and expressions, that they would take some pity on you and give you a lighter sentence. There was never going to be an acquittal after Chuck Schumer attacked SilkRoad in the news- the die had already been cast in the judicial theater and public opinion. You were doomed no matter the facts and evidence.

Garden variety murderers or rapists get away with less than 10 years prison if they fill the movie stereotype. It is not the crime or the consequences of the action, but whether you rank above or below in status of the Judge. If you rank way below her in status, she will take pity on you, and give you a light sentence. If you rank way above her in morality, kindness and intelligence, then she will seek to crush you with a vengeance. That is the crux of your terrible, unfortunate situation.

I hope my speculative musings on your defense strategy is thought provoking, and not a trigger for more despair. I hope that a deeper understanding of your legal crucible can be a “lift-raft” to endure the suffering. Please know that your torture is not forgotten on the outside of prison, even by strangers like me. And you are not alone, other victims such as Julian Assange receive solitary confinement or death sentences for exposing embarrassing lies. In my case, the malevolence of the justice system has broken my life in a different way than yours. Some have less suffering, some have more; but that is not important. Any innocent person suffering by the willful, and malevolent actions of other human beings is torture.

Adequately answering the “why me?” question can provide a life raft to endure the pain.

Your virtue is not lost by all of humanity. You remain one of my guides for a more peaceful, voluntary and cooperative society. A beacon of hope. Peace.

Scott Putnam

Ross Ulbricht

I was put in handcuffs for the first time when I was 29 years old. I was labeled a prisoner that day and have since spent 2,096 days and nights in the captivity of the U.S. federal government. I’m still in prison, condemned to die here with a life sentence and no parole. Prison is nothing if not boring, so I’ve had many hours to think about all sorts of things, including who, if anyone, really belongs here.

After my arrest, the prosecution and media went to great lengths to demonize me to the public and later to my jury at trial. That hurt. I used to believe that I didn’t care what people thought of me, that my sense of worth was intrinsic and objective, but that was when I was generally liked. Suddenly, countless people were meeting a strawman, not me at all, but a dangerous criminal. It’s easier to condemn a villain, so it had to appear that I deserve this. This is punishment after all, and would be unfair otherwise.

A sense of fairness is fundamental to our nature. It’s part of the glue that keeps civilization together. It’s the gut check for justice. Unfairness sparks indignation and a desire to right the wrong, but indignation can go too far. It has a dark side called vengeance. There are two sides of the same coin.

The mind bent on revenge seeks to balance the scales: pain for pain. “He deserves what he gets,” it urges. “He must pay.” Instead of being a check on injustice, it becomes an excuse for it. As someone on the receiving end of this, who has met hundreds of others in the same position, I’m telling you, no one deserves this.

I don’t claim that we don’t need to keep some people separated from free society. As Solzhenitsyn famously wrote, “The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.” Some are possessed by their dark side and can be expected to violently prey on the weak and vulnerable. There are people like that in here. That doesn’t mean they “deserve” this or that they cannot change. It just means that humane separation is the only option until they do. But this is not humane.

Many of my fellow prisoners have no support from the outside. Their loved ones have either died during their long stay here, abandoned them or turned on them. All of us are cut-off to some degree. We seek mental escapes of every kind — some constructive, others destructive — to stave off confronting the abject horror of our situation. Violence is common, and the tension it brings is the air we breathe. Forcing someone to spend years or decades continuously like this, waking up to it every single morning, is cruel. If you disagree, I’ll prove it to you.

Imagine the worst torture you can think of that doesn’t leave the victim disabled, something you can’t deny is cruel: burning, flogging — take your pick. If the victims themselves would prefer this torture to imprisonment, the inescapable conclusion is that prison is worse, even more cruel. I, and every prisoner I have asked, would prefer any amount of pain and cruelty, for a limited duration, to the years and decades we’re forced to spend here — spirits crushed, hope abandoned, relegated to irrelevance.

No one deserves this, even if they have to here for the sake of others’ safety. Certainly, the many non-violent drug offenders growing old in here don’t. Pain does not heal pain. A lost soul is not redeemed in a cage.

Vengeance and cruelty are not aspects of our nature to be honored and institutionalized. They are base and destructive. They hurt all parties. Our families and communities are hurting. Humanity is hurting. The pain of your fellow human being is your pain too, even thoughs it is locked away in remote prisons.

We can do better. We have the potential to rise above this darkness, to be proud of how humanely we treat prisoners and how few we need to brand with that label. Instead we hand out years, decades and lifetimes of imprisonment to virtually every person the government targets. We keep building cells like the one I’m writing this from.

Prisoners are not inventory. We are not numbers or statistics. We are human beings, and we don’t deserve this.