America’s Victimless Crimes

Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

I arrived at work one morning in 2010 to the news that one of my employees would be standing trial the next day. He was an all-around good guy that I joked with often, so I pulled him aside to talk. He had been caught with a “medium amount” of marijuana resulting in charges being laid against him. He showed me the court paperwork and for the first time I looked at the phrase, “State of Georgia vs…”, and started to question what exactly that meant.

My first thoughts were that I was allegedly part of the “State of Georgia” and had no issue with what he did. I started to think that maybe one or two people would be there “representing” the State, but that they probably didn’t know this man. How did he “damage” them? How did he commit a crime against something that exists only on paper. It was at this time that the phrase, “No Victim, No Crime,” entered my lexicon.

On October 1st 2013, the F.B.I. arrested Ross William Ulbricht on charges of money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics and procuring murder. Only after bail was denied him were the charges of procuring murder dropped. Let me state this clearly, Ross Ulbricht was never put on trial for seeking to take out “deep-web hits” on anyone. In what can only be called a travesty of justice, the judge took these bogus accusations into account at sentencing. On May 29th 2015 Ross was sentenced to life without parole on the remaining charges.

Mr. Ulbricht is the creator of the now famous “Silk Road” “deep-web” site that ran on the Tor network. Inspired by the works of such authors as Samuel Konkin III, Ross sought to create a private marketplace, free of government regulation, in which items deemed “illegal” by lawmakers could be made available in an anonymous, violence-free way. The only form of payment accepted on the site was Bitcoin, thus removing all monetary transactions from Federal Reserve oversight.

The product that far outsold any other on the site were “illegal” drugs. There was a period of time that people sought to sell weapons on the site but Ross and the other administrators put a stop to it. There are reports that documents such as forged passports could be acquired but the real commodity that drove the site was drugs.

I began by speaking of my path to the realization that we live in a society where one can be incarcerated for a crime in which there is no victim. What better poster-boy for “No Victim, No Crime” is there than Ross? One of the charges that Mr Ulbricht was convicted of was “conspiracy to distribute narcotics.” Would someone please give me the name of one man or woman whose “person” or “property” is damaged by this so-called offense? How about “money laundering?” Ignoring the fact that the only currency used on the site was Bitcoin, please give me the name of the party hurt by this accusation! Computer hacking? Where’s the accuser?

America’s critics point to its prison population as one of the issues that takes away from its claim that it is the “freest country in the world.” If a man can be sentenced to life without parole in a Super-Max Prison, on three charges, where no damaged party can be found, what argument can be made to the contrary?

Ross William Ulbricht’s counsel have filed an appeal with the United States Supreme Court.

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Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

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