Trump and Kennedy Say They’d Free Ross Ulbricht. Biden Can Do That Right Now.

Image placed on Silk Road after seizure by the FBI

While panhandling for votes at the Libertarian National Convention over Memorial Day weekend, two non-Libertarian presidential candidates — Donald Trump and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. — promised to free political prisoner Ross Ulbricht if elected.

That promise is a big deal to Libertarians. Ulbricht, 40, is about a decade into his two life sentences, without the possibility of parole, for the “crime” of operating a web site.

Yes, you read that correctly.

You may hear other, darker allegations concerning what Ulbricht did, but those allegations were so weakly supported by evidence that even grandstanding, corrupt US Attorney Preet Bharara was afraid to charge Ulbricht over them.

Unfortunately, corrupt US District Judge Katherine B. Forrest, after openly rigging the trial to ensure a jury conviction, used those unproven allegations to justify the draconian sentence.

When it’s all said and done, the excuse for Ulbricht’s imprisonment comes down to this: He ran an e-commerce web site (Silk Road), and some people sold things on that site … things which the government disapproves of, like certain drugs.

That’s it. That’s all. There’s nothing else. He ran a web site, and now he’s sentenced to die behind bars for running that web site.

While I won’t be voting for Trump or RFK Jr. (I support another candidate who promises to “Free Ross,” Libertarian presidential nominee Chase Oliver), I do thank them for their offers.

But really, why should we — or, more importantly, Ross — have to wait until next January to get this matter taken care of?

Yes, Trump or RFK Jr., if elected, might keep the promise and do the right thing.

But President Joe Biden could do the right thing TODAY. Biden could commute Ross’s sentence or pardon him and put the  matter to rest.

That would be the right thing to do … and good politics as well.

Two of Biden’s leading opponents have pledged to get the job done.

With a stroke of his pardon/commutation pen, Biden could take the issue away from those opponents.

Politically, it would be an easy, all-benefit, no-cost proposition.

The constituency for freeing Ross may not be huge, but neither are the likely margins of victory this November.  Fewer than 50,000 votes in key states separated victory from defeat for Biden in 2020. He needs every vote he can get. SOME grateful Americans would reward a pardon or commutation at the polls.

The constituency for keeping Ross in prison is, for all practical purposes, non-existent. The tiny group supporting his continued incarceration wouldn’t change their votes over it.

What’s better than doing the right thing? Doing the right thing, rubbing your opponents’ noses in it, and adding votes to your column at their expense.

Mr. Biden, tear down this (prison) wall. Free Ross!

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.