According to the Daily Beast, which cites three people familiar with the matter, Trump has expressed sympathy for Ulbricht’s situation.
Launched in February 2011, Silk Road, which used the Tor network, grew into an enormous drugs market worth $1.2 billion. Its size and the money it generated put Silk Road in the crosshairs of law enforcement, which began a search to uncover The Dread Pirate Roberts’s identity. The name—taken from the Princess Bride—was used by Ulbricht while running his business empire.
Ulbricht was caught in 2013 and charged with computer fraud, money laundering, and drug offenses. He was also accused of hiring people to kill five Silk Road users for stealing from the site and trying to blackmail him by revealing his true identity, but no evidence of murders was found.
After being found guilty in 2015, Ulbricht was handed a life sentence without the possibility of parole, a punishment many believe far outweighs the crime. The Daily Beast notes that Jan Slomp, Silk Road’s largest drug seller, received ten years, while other site admins were sentenced to between 17 months and six and a half years.
While Ulbricht admits to creating Silk Road, he claims to have passed the operation onto someone else, leaving him to become a “fall guy” for that person. An appeal against his life sentence was rejected in 2017.
It’s not certain that Trump will grant Ulbricht clemency, but support for the latter’s cause has reportedly been growing amongst those in the president’s close circle.
Neither the White House nor Ulbricht’s family commented on the story.