Sunday, June 30, 2019

Lyn Ulbricht: Fighting the State to Gain Ross Ulbricht's Freedom

Lyn and Ross Ulbricht
By Robert Wenzel

In an odd twist, the mother of Ross Ulbricht is fighting for the freedom of her son.

Ross is serving two life sentences plus 40 years because of his attempt to bring more freedom to the entire world. Because of that effort, his freedom has been taken by the state.

I met Ross' mother, Lyn Ulbricht, at the Bitcoin convention that was held last week in San Francisco.

She told me that Ross, before he was arrested, had an incredible passion for advancing freedom in the world. He turned down a full scholarship that would have paid for him to study for a PhD in advanced material sciences at Cornell University.

Instead, he wanted to focus on increasing freedom for all. At first, he worked on a video game that taught the basics of freedom but he abandoned that and told his parents he was focusing on an internet money, Bitcoin, that would bring greater freedom to the world.

While working on that project which involved the internet site, Silk Road, that sold drugs and other dark goods Amazon-style with seller reviews etc., Wall Street bankers were getting wind of this new "freedom money." It looked like competition for them.

A powerful friend of the banks, Senator Chuch Schumer (NY-D), started making noises.

Schumer sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. That's power and the Wall Street bankers know it.

According to Open Secrets, between 1989 and 2020, the top 5 contributors to his election campaigns were individuals associated with, and the organizations themselves, of four banks, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Credit Suisse and one Wall Street law firm, Paul, Weiss et al.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that when screaming came from Washington D.C. about Bitcoin and Silk Road, it was Schumer that was doing the screaming.

In early June 2011, Schumer called for a “crackdown” on Bitcoin, the immediate closure of Silk Road, and the apprehension of those behind it.

Schumer's demand was finally met by government officials on October 1, 2013. Ross was in his local library downloading The Colbert Report when the officials set a trap for him to respond to a Silk Road message on his laptop and he was arrested.

Lyn believes the deep driving force behind the horrific treatment Ross has received since then is because of the Wall Street banks concern about Bitcoin. "It was about Bitcoin all along," she told me.

And the treatment can only be called Stalinesque. First, Ross was denied bail. Then he suffered through a trial that never gave him a chance and then a sentence that is remarkably beyond sentences received by anyone else for similar first-time offenses.

Indeed, Jon Slomp, the leading drug dealer on Silk Road, received only a 10-year sentence. Another major Silk Road drug dealer, Steve Sadler, received only a 5-year sentence. Ross never sold any drugs.

Before the trial, Ross' lawyer discussed a potential deal with prosecutors. Lyn had told me about the negotiations at the time but didn't want to go public with them back then. I asked her this week about those negotiations.

She told me that the prosecution was willing to charge Ross in a plea deal to crimes that would result in a minimum of ten years in prison, they then threatened, if Ross did not agree to a plea deal, to add a kingpin charge, raising the minimum to twenty years.

But here is the kicker, the prosecutors said that either way, they would recommend that the judge sentence Ross to life in prison without parole.

So Ross, his lawyer simply thought the plea deal was a trap and that Ross had nothing to lose by going through with the trial.

The trial judge for the case was Katherine Forrest, District Court Judge in the Southern District of New York, who had been officially recommended to the bench by, ahem, Schumer.

Lyn is still furious at many of the people responsible for putting Ross in prison but when she talks to Ross about it, he tells her "Let it go. They are just cogs in the wheel."

Lyn tells me that Ross spends a lot of time reading. He is currently reading about the Stoics and their philosophy and about artificial intelligence. She says he doesn't watch television but many other prisoners spend their entire day just watching television.

After his conviction, he was sent to prison in Florence, Colorado, which is where the Supermax prison is located. He was placed in a prison one notch below Supermax, which Lyn told me was very violent. When he refused to get involved in a fight, Ross had to be put into solitary confinement for his own safety since he was a marked man for not fighting.

After an investigation, he was transferred to the Tuscon federal prison in a section with other prisoners whose lives are at risk in prison for various reasons such as being snitches. She seems relieved at this. "They are all non-violent prisoners," she tells me.

He is teaching mathematics and science in prison, Lyn tells me, and he has joined a prison band where he is learning to play the bass guitar.

She is most focused now on a petition. It is a clemency petition. Over 180,000 people have signed it, but she wants more, at least 250,000, so that President Trump will take notice. Sign here.

I asked Lyn about correspondence. She tells me that Ross can receive mail at:

Ross Ulbricht #18870-111
P.O. Box 24550
Tucson, AZ 85734

But envelopes with labels on them are returned as are cards. You can send him copies of articles.

There are limits to how many books Ross can receive so Lyn says she would rather have anyone thinking of sending a book to just put the money in the Ross commissary account or donate the money to his Defense Fund.

There is a remarkable amount of widespread support in the greater legal and intellectual community for Ross, from those who understand the sentence Ross received is unjustified and are willing to say so by name, including:
  • Kannon Shanmugam-Head of Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Practice, Williams & Connolly
  •  Shon Hopwood-Appellate Lawyer, Professor of Law at Georgetown University
  • Noam Chomsky-World-Renowned Political Dissident, Professor Emeritus MIT
  • Brittany K. Barnett-Attorney. Co-Founder, Buried Alive Project 
  • Catherine Austin Fitts-Assistant Secretary of Housing under President George H.W. Bush
  • David Safavian-General Counsel, American Conservative Union
  • John Stossel-Commentator and Television Personality
  • Keanu Reeves-Actor
  • Jake Chervinsky-Government Enforcement Defense & Securities Litigation Lawyer, Kobre & Kim
  • Jiri Mastalka-Member, European Parliament
  •  Terry Cooper-Professor Emeritus of Public Policy, USC
  • Heidi Boghosian-Former Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild. Executive Director, A.J. Muste Institute
  •  Tim Draper-Premier Venture Capitalist. Founder, Draper Associates and DFJ
  • Kevin McKernan-Co-Founder, Medicinal Genomics. R&D Lead, Human Genome Project
Meanwhile, Lyn continues to travel the country telling the Ross Ulbricht story. Her June schedule alone shows that she was not only here in San Francisco but also at points across the country including on the other coast in New Hampshire.

She is frugal with her money when she travels. During the San Francisco event, she stayed with friends across the bay in Oakland. You see there are a lot of lawyers' bills to pay. There are currently 5 lawyers being retained on various parts of the case.

Her crusade for Ross appears to be having an impact, at least in the Bitcoin community, as we walked the Bitcoin convention floor many people stopped us and asked to get a picture taken with Lyn. Others just wished Ross and her luck. Others asked questions and she answered them with passion as though she had never heard the question before rather than the reality that she was asked the same question just three minutes ago and seven minutes before that. She has her son's passion but this time it is to free her son.

She tells me that there is so much new evidence out that was not presented in the first trial, including agents on Ross' case that stole Bitcoins and blackmailed others (The case is so dirty that the government still won't allow Ross' lawyers to see the email conversations about Ross and Silk Road by the dirty agents),  that if Ross somehow is granted a new trial she hopes that the government would not want to take the case to trial again and that they would be serious about cutting a deal this time.

But right now her focus is on a commutation of Ross's double life sentence -- to time served. 

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.comand Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bankand most recently Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn. His youtube series is here: Robert Wenzel Talks Economics. More about Wenzel here.


  1. Punishment for allowing people to opt out of the corrupt Bankster system. The Banksters get very angry when you try to get them to stop stealing from you.

  2. Ross is correct, "they are just cogs in the wheel" and making sure they get their just deserts will not help Ross nor help the cause of liberty. Forget the politicians, forget the corrupt bureaucrats forget the crony banksters, they are a lost cause. I have no idea how Ross' case will turn out but I am certain that liberty can only grow one individual at a time. But it can only be individuals who are rational and psychologically healthy.