As convicted Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht awaits his sentencing hearing on Friday, relatives of people who allegedly died from drugs purchased on the site are trying to make it clear Ulbricht's crimes were not victimless.
The government submitted five letters from parents and siblings of three people who died after taking drugs allegedly purchased on Silk Road to the court.
In the letters, the relatives of the alleged victims claim their children would still be alive today if it weren't for Silk Road. Several asked the judge to give Ulbricht the harshest sentence possible: life in prison.
In one letter, the father of a victim identified as Bryan said he was so shocked by the heroin overdose death of his son, an athletic honors student, he hired a forensics team to investigate it. He said the team found Silk Road enabled his son's drug purchases, including the one that led to his death. He said they found Bryan had tried drugs in the past, but was "doing well in life" until he found Silk Road in 2013.
"Our investigation revealed that Bryan, who was fighting off urges to try heroin again, was overpowered by the combination of convenience and anonymity," he wrote.
The father described how the untraceability and accessibility of the website expanded the market for illicit drugs while making Ulbricht rich. He called the site "evil" and Ulbricht "a sociopath."
The father also had some strong words for supporters of Ulbricht who say the site minimized drug violence and overdose deaths.
"Since Ulbricht's arrest, our family has been assaulted by the persistent drumbeat of his 'supporters' who go as far to proclaim him (in your courtroom) a 'hero.' They continue to tell anyone who will listen the narrative that Ulbricht's crimes were 'victimless' and the government's case against him was unnecessary and unjust," he wrote. "Suffice it to say their claims, aside from being deeply offensive, are false and absurd."
The sister of the victim also wrote that Ulbricht should receive "the harshest sentence allowable by law" to help deter future sites like Silk Road.
Included in the letters were statements from the mother and sister of one victim who appears to be Preston Bridge, a Australian teenageer who jumped from a balcony and died after taking drugs purchased from Silk Road believed to be synthetic LSD.
"As it turns out, I should have been more fearful of the internet."
"I have no doubt in my mind, that if Preston had not taken that drug which one of his friends had purchased off the internet Silk Road, he would still be alive today," wrote the victim's sister Aimee. She said she is now suicidal and taking antidepressants after the death of her brother.
In the final letter, a mother describes losing her only son to drugs purchased on Silk Road. She said her son had struggled with addiction for years, but Silk Road further enabled it.
"I was often fearful that a stranger would knock on my door seeking money that Jake owed or looking for drugs. I was at times fearful for my safety," she wrote. "As it turns out, I should have been more fearful of the internet. The internet makes it too easy. Silk Road made buying and selling of drugs safe. Providing a platform that preys on the weak and vulnerable."
Ulbricht is set to be sentenced in a New York courtroom on Friday afternoon. He has already promised to appeal his conviction.