I just don't agree with a life without parole sentence in this case.
Such a sentence should only be handed down when it is clear that there is no possibility of rehabilitation. Why on Earth does the Judge believe that this should be the case? Does she really believe that Ross Ulbricht is so depraved a human being that no matter how long he spends behind bars, he will remain a danger to society and that his crimes were so great and reprehensible that no matter how long he serves, he will always deserve to be in there still longer?
Let us adopt the balmy notion that one should be innocent unless proven guilty (crazy!) and so ignore the question of the 6 supposed murders. That will be tried separately and so should not have any impact on this case.
So what has he done, really, that is cause to sentence him to die in prison?
I am no supporter of his and I am not one for drugs, nor do I much care for this 'libertarian' ideal he claims as his motivation. But, I can certainly see my way to accepting that he is remorseful and thus a good prospect for rehabilitation.
You - and indeed the judge - may not believe him but I think he makes a very good case for himself. He claims that the reason for establishing The Silk Road was to setup a truly free and anonymous marketplace and this is pretty much what he did. If one accepts that motivation then much of what follows makes sense. Not justified by any means as doing wrong in the name of even the best ideals is still wrong, but it does paint it as something more than just wanton criminal behaviour.
It is not at all unimaginable that Ulbricht could go on to live out the remainder of his days (after a 20 year sentence) as a normal, quiet, even productive (given his obvious intelligence), person. And if that scenario is possible, then so should parole be.
I do not think that the several overdose deaths that resulted from items bought from the site should have any relevance. Yes, many illegal drugs are dangerous and this is one of the reasons why selling them is a crime and why the penalties are so harsh.
Punishing someone more because someone who took drugs died inescapably means that you are punishing other drug suppliers less just because they had the good fortune to have clients who weren't idiots*. And that seems rather odd to me. Even more so if the person being tried wasn't actually the one selling the drugs but the one facilitating the sale.
Personally, I think that 30 years with a non-parole period of 20 is suitable and if you can't get someone like this rehabilitated in that time then the problem is the criminal justice system as a whole.
I wonder how much the death threats the Judge received contributed to this sentence.
* - I know that's a little harsh of me but those who died from overdoses of drugs (allegedly) bought via the Silk Road site should not be laid that the feet of the person running that site. families want someone to blame, however - after all, their son or daughter was a good person, don't you know. If it wasn't for people like Ross Ulbricht preying on them, they would have led good, long and happy lives. Except he didn't prey on them. He didn't push drugs. Those who took them wanted to. They went to effort to do so and that effort is sufficient to dismiss any suggestion that without the Silk Road they wouldn't have taken any drugs - they would have simply gotten them elsewhere.