“Sing to me of the CEO, Muse, the entrepreneur of many twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Silk Road.”
Charlie Shrem, the plucky Bitcoin evangelist tied to the online black market Silk Road, was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday—charges he plead guilty to in September. So how did he manage to charm the judge into allegedly calling him a “brilliant visionary” and only giving two years behind bars?
Probably it’s that Mr. Shrem isn’t the only one who has a way with words.
Mr. Shrem’s sentencing memo, obtained by Betabeat from the same firm that successfully defended P. Diddy and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, reads like a starry-eyed novella, or at worst a liberal arts major’s graduate thesis. The document casts Mr. Shrem as the hero in an ancient tale—a veritable Prometheus, caught trying to steal fire from the Gods.
From the Introduction:
Had the Greeks known of crypto-currencies and of certain provincial Brooklyn neighborhoods, a tragedy could have been written about a boy who, through Dionysian passion and a little hubris, helped nurture an idea—bitcoin—that was new to the world, and that could change how the world—the whole world—passed value from one person to another.
This new idea would take the boy from from his neighborhood. The boy would see himself as an almost sacred guardian of this new idea, charged with the awesome responsibility of bringing it out of the darkness and into the light of widespread, mainstream acceptance. However, in the chaos of developing the new idea, he would drop his guard, and allow the dark forces to caste it in shadow.
He would be to blame. He would be viewed not as its protector but as its destroyer, the destroyer of the one thing—the idea—he loved most. He would be sent back to his provincial neighborhood and, for a while, would live in his parents’ basements, all the while dreaming of the time he could return to his lifelong task of helping—of being just one of many—to bring this new idea further into light.
The rest of the story remains to be written.
The Greeks hardly need to know the tale of Mr. Shrem for it to be mythologized; That tale is in the rest of the memo, which lays out the sunny childhood of the Brooklyn mensch, his early affinity with computers, his love of Bitcoin and its utopian promise, and the eventual folly of getting all mixed up in all that dark web, drug smuggling stuff.
As we reported this morning, the New York Observer and Betabeat have been in touch with Mr. Shrem, who is in good spirits considering we won’t be seeing him but through a glass window for the next couple of years. Since he was sentenced, Mr. Shrem has tweeted how grateful he was that he got off so easy, considering he could have gone away for 30 years given a less sympathetic judge—or a less poetically deft defense attorney.
Mr. Shrem goes with his head held high toward a crime which, since his arrest, he has never once insisted he is totally innocent of. Instead, Mr. Shrem, his attourney and even the judge who handed down his sentence have attributed his crime to the “arrogance of youth.”
As defense attorney Marc Agnifilo cited in his plea to the court, “there is a saying that is attributed to Robert Hanlon but is actually rooted in Goethe which goes: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”