The Full background story at: Antilop.cc
Was published at the Baltimore sun:
A federal judge imposed a six-year sentence on Jacob Theodore George IV, an Edgewood man troubled by a history of arrests, drug abuse and mental health problems who took to selling heroin on the online drug bazaar Silk Road.
George, 33, apologized to the judge for what he had done and described how he cried as he gave federal agents a confession when they caught him. “I made a bad decision helping with Silk Road,” George said, reading from prepared notes to help with his nerves.
George was one of the first dealers on the site to be arrested and was taken into custody in early 2012. Silk Road used anonymizing software to make it hard for investigators to track down individual users and to make payments secretly using Bitcoin, an electronic currency.
On the site, George sold heroin from Baltimore and important quantities of the synthetic drug methylone under the alias Digitalink.
His arrest helped agents with Homeland Security Investigations, a law enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security, build a case against the alleged mastermind behind the site, Ross William Ulbricht.
After the homeland security agents teamed up with the FBI and DEA, Ulbricht — also alleged to have used the name Dread Pirate Roberts — was arrested in San Francisco last October. He is currently awaiting trial on drug charges in New York and was also indicted in Maryland over an unsuccessful murder-for-hire plot against one of his team.
As agents worked to build their case and take down Silk Road, George stewed at the Chesapeake Detention Facility, a high security federal lock up in downtown Baltimore. He ultimately spent two and half years there, time that will be knocked off his sentence.
George’s attorney, Paul D. Hazlehurst, said his client suffered a severe beating while held there — an incident that started after George wouldn’t let another inmate use a jail phone.
But George also described putting his computer skills to use, building an online system for inmates to access information about their incarceration. “I have so much potential,” he told the judge.
The Silk Road case revealed the extent to which drug traffickers have taken their trade online and Hazelhurst and prosecutor Justin Shibayama Herring dueled over whether that made George’s crime more serious or less so.
Herring said that Silk Road allowed people who might be too timid to buy drugs from a street dealer to get hooked on dangerous narcotics, and because many of the drugs sold through the site came from traditional suppliers it did not cut down on violence.
“There needs to be a serious sentence here,” Herring said.
But Hazlehurst asked the judge to consider the view of people in East and West Baltimore who confront drug-related violence every day would think taking the trade online was a bad thing.
In crafting her sentence, Judge Catherine C. Blake said she thought online drug dealing did still carry risks of violence and harmed drug users. But she accepted that George had taken responsibility for his actions and the prison term she imposed was shorter than what federal sentencing guidelines suggested.