Ross Ulbricht, the man who brought drug dealing into the 21st century, surely deserves some jail time for flagrantly violating the law.
Ulbircht, known online as 'Dread Pirate Robert', was convicted last week of running the online drug marketplace Silk Road. His sentence was worse than death: Life in jail with no chance of parole.
Before sentencing, Ulbricht wrote a letter to Judge Katherine Forrest pleading with her to “leave a light at the end of the tunnel” and to let him have his “old age”.
Yet he received the harshest possible sentence for all counts – one for 20 years, one for five years, one for 15 years and two for life.
Lawyers for Ulbricht will appeal on the grounds that they only learned a month before going to trial that two of the FBI agents investigating Silk Road were being charged with corruption and money laundering themselves. That's certainly grounds for appeal it would seem.
Yet another question, whether legal or not, is whether Ulbricht was less dangerous than a regular street corner drug dealer and in fact saved lives, rather than took them.
Ulbricht's marketplace, as we profiled in a detailed piece here, had an on-site physician, providing purity testing, drug interaction advice and addiction counseling to Ulbricht's customers.
This is markedly different than the sale of street drugs, which come with none of these health improving services.
Judge Forrest's sentence completely ignored this rather large fact and for that she should be ashamed.
Ulbricht legitimately, for the first time in history, took the health of his customers into account when providing them drugs. The scale of his operation, which cleared hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, means his on-site doctor wasn't just effective - he was massively effective.
Compared to drug cartels controlling most sales in America, who care zero for their customers and lace their products with all sorts of nasty chemicals, Ulbricht genuinely cared for his customers.
He undoubtedly saved many lives and improved others, yet Forrest focused on a handful of people who may or may not have died and may have died at the hands of others anyway.
Nowhere was any credit given for the harm reduction he helped provide. Nowhere was the precedent he set recognized in any way.
This is a severe oversight of justice and should be factored into his sentencing upon appeal. For the crimes he has been found guilty of today, life in jail is a sentence far too harsh.
A separate case, in which Ulbricht is accused of trying to procure a murder-for-hire, is still pending in a Maryland court.
Should he be found guilty of those crimes, Katherine Forrest's sentence would be appropriate.
But they are not the same charges or even the same case. Justice is blind to them at this point.
As it stands now, the war on drugs has claimed another bright, enterprising young American who is condemned to rot in jail for the rest of his natural life.
A tragedy, like so many others.