Trump Pledges to Free Silk Road Creator Ross Ulbricht If Re-Elected

Ulbricht has served 11 years of his sentence of two life terms plus 40 years for creating the darknet marketplace.

AccessTimeIconMay 26, 2024 at 1:19 a.m. UTC
Updated May 29, 2024 at 4:45 p.m. UTC

Donald J. Trump has pledged to commute Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht’s life sentence to time served if he’s re-elected president.

“If you vote for me, on Day 1, I will commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht to a sentence of time served,” Trump said during his Saturday night remarks at the Libertarian National Convention in Washington, D.C. “He’s already served 11 years, we’re gonna get him home.”

Hours before those remarks, Trump took to social media to praise the crypto industry, writing on Truth Social:

“I am very positive and open minded to cryptocurrency companies, and all things related to this new and burgeoning industry. Our country must be the leader in the field. There is no second place,” Trump wrote, adding that President Joe Biden “wants [the cryptocurrency industry] to die a slow and painful death. That will never happen with me!”

In his evening address, Trump’s pledge to free Ulbricht was met with raucous cheers from the assembled audience, many of whom were holding up signs reading “Free Ross.”

In 2015, Ulbricht was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus 40 years – effectively, life in prison without the possibility of parole – for creating and operating Silk Road. The now-defunct darknet marketplace was used to anonymously buy and sell goods, but was largely used for drugs. Silk Road operated from 2011 to 2013 and is widely considered the first real-world use case for Bitcoin.

Ulbricht has become something of a martyr for many in the crypto community, as well as to many Libertarians, who see Ulbricht’s draconian sentence as a governmental overstep and a violation of his constitutional rights. In 2018, the Libertarian Party called on then-President Trump to pardon Ulbricht.

Before Trump’s presidency ended in January 2021, he granted clemency to 143 individuals – pardoning 73, including Ripple board member Ken Kurson, and commuting the sentences of 70 others. He did not offer clemency to Ulbricht, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, who released details about a U.S. surveillance program to American journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Trump also made more general comments about cryptocurrency at the convention, telling attendees that he would “stop Joe Biden’s crusade to crush crypto – we’re gonna stop it.”

“I will ensure that the future of crypto and the future of bitcoin will be made in the USA, not driven overseas. I will support the right to self custody,” Trump said, to cheers. “To the nation’s fifty million crypto holders, I say this: I will keep Elizabeth Warren and her goons away from your bitcoin, and I will never allow the creation of a central bank digital currency.”

Trump has warmed up considerably to crypto in recent months, making several pro-crypto comments publicly and becoming the first major party presidential candidate to accept crypto donations.


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Cheyenne Ligon

Cheyenne Ligon is a CoinDesk news reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She has no significant crypto holdings.

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