Ross Ulbricht to Receive Clemency From Donald Trump?

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  • Jailed Silk road founder Ross Ulbricht could be granted clemency by outgoing president Donald Trump
  • The Daily Beast reports that Ulbricht’s file has been with the White House and the president has shown sympathy in Ulbricht’s plight
  • Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison without parole for founding and running Silk Road

Outgoing president Donald Trump is considering granting clemency to jailed Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht in a move that would surprise and delight the cryptocurrency community and beyond. Ulbricht was jailed for life without the possibility of parole in 2015 for founding and operating the Silk Road dark web marketplace between 2011 and 2013, a sentence that has been roundly criticized as excessive by a huge swathe of commentators, and not just those in the cryptocurrency world.

Trump Has “Expressed Some Sympathy” For Ulbricht

News of the potential grating of clemency came via The Daily Beast who yesterday reported that Trump is considering clemency for Ulbricht, among others, before he leaves office on January 20:

…the president has at times privately expressed some sympathy for Ulbricht’s situation and has been considering his name, among others, for his next round of commutations and pardons before the Jan. 20 inauguration of his 2020 Democratic opponent.

‘Clemency’ is a broad term covering three possible actions that a state official (or president in the case of a federal crime) can take to reduce a sentence imparted on a convicted criminal:

Pardon: forgiveness of a sentence
Commutation: a reduction of a sentence
Reprieve: a temporary delay of punishment to allow for further analysis

Trump has already issued a full pardon to Michael Flynn and commuted the sentence given to long-time ally Roger Time, so he is no stranger to the process. The Daily Beast reports that “the White House counsel’s office has had documents related to Ulbricht’s case under review”, which at least puts him in the presidential clemency crosshairs.

Life Sentence Was “Quite a Leap”

Ulbricht’s sentence, which was much tougher than many violent crimes, has been noted as being particularly harsh in many quarters, even by the judges in his failed appeal to the Supreme Court. Indeed, one of the appeal judges called it “quite a leap” and asked “why does this guy get a life sentence?” during the hearing itself.

Despite the sympathy Ulbricht has endured in the five years since his sentence was handed down he had had no reduction in his sentence, with former president Obama ignoring calls to grant clemency when he stepped aside in 2016. Should Trump follow the same route and decline to grant clemency, campaigners will have to wait until a potential change of presidency in 2024 before they can try again.

The Free Ross Ulbricht website states that over 365,000 have signed a petition to grant Ulbricht clemency for his crimes.