Home Donald Trump makes pledge to exonerate Ross Ulbricht

Donald Trump makes pledge to exonerate Ross Ulbricht


  • Donald Trump received mixed reactions at the Libertarian National Convention, but pledging to exonerate Ross Ulbricht drew cheers.
  • Ulbricht, founder of Silk Road, is serving a life sentence for operating the dark web marketplace enabling illicit trades.
  • Trump's promise aligns with his strategy to appeal to different interest groups, including Libertarians and the crypto community.

Donald Trump endured a frosty reception at the Libertarian National Convention on Saturday evening, but his pledge to exonerate Ross Ulbricht drew the biggest acclaim of the night. 

Ulbricht is the founder and kingpin of the underground internet marketplace Silk Road, which he created under the pseudonym ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ to provide “an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.”

“And if you vote for me, on Day One, I will commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht,” declared the former US president, sparking cheers from an audience which was otherwise cold to his overtures.

Many in the crowd held placards with the slogan “Free Ross.”, while Trump also stated he would pardon his supporters who were responsible for storming Capitol Hill in January 2021.

Who is Ross Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road?

Ross Ulbricht is currently serving a life sentence in prison, without parole, in Tucson, Arizona, following his 2015 conviction for owning and operating Silk Road. 

The 40-year-old from Austin, Texas was found to be responsible for the dark web portal from 2011 to 2013, which enabled users to spend Bitcoin and other digital currencies to acquire drugs, hacker tools, and other illicit materials.

When he was sentenced, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, delivered a damning indictment on the Silk Road founder, “Make no mistake, Ulbricht was a drug dealer and criminal profiteer who exploited people’s addictions and contributed to the deaths of at least six young people.” 

In addition to a life tariff, he was ordered to pay £184 million in restitution by US District Judge Katherine B. Forrest.

Trump’s promise was the latest salvo in his charm offensive to win hearts and minds of different interest groups. This was a direct offering to Libertarians, who campaigned for the legalization of drugs and have been demanding Ulbricht’s release, but he has also courted the crypto community.

In recent weeks, the 77-year-old Presidential contender held a reception at his Mar-A-Lago base where he performed a U-turn to present himself as a champion for the alternate currency,  despite describing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as “based on thin air” back in 2019.

Image credit: Ideogram

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Graeme Hanna
Tech Journalist

Graeme Hanna is a full-time, freelance writer with significant experience in online news as well as content writing. Since January 2021, he has contributed as a football and news writer for several mainstream UK titles including The Glasgow Times, Rangers Review, Manchester Evening News, MyLondon, Give Me Sport, and the Belfast News Letter. Graeme has worked across several briefs including news and feature writing in addition to other significant work experience in professional services. Now a contributing news writer at ReadWrite.com, he is involved with pitching relevant content for publication as well as writing engaging tech news stories.

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