Bitcoin Cash Supporter Roger Ver: “I was Tortured in Federal Prison.”
Never start your prison sentence on a Friday.
That was Roger Ver’s first piece of advice, given out as part of a revealing new video in which Ver describes his experience being tortured at a United States federal penitentiary. The video gives shocking details of abuses faced by Ver, and by extension, many other prisoners currently held in similar conditions.
By Ver’s account, his time in prison was a subject he had never written about or spoken about publicly before. His primary motivation for telling his story now is the news that Gary Davis, a 27-year old Irishman who had been working in the customer service department of Bitcoin.com for over a year, will be extradited to the United States where he will face life in prison.
Ver, now the CEO of Bitcoin.com and one of the most influential people in cryptocurrency, reveals in the video that he had himself served 10 months in federal prison from 2002-2003 for selling firecrackers on Ebay without a license.
The real reason Ver believes he was sentenced to prison, however, is that he was “speak[ing] truth to power.”
Ver’s Troubling Prison Experience
In the twenty-minute long video posted on Ver’s personal YouTube channel, Ver goes into detail about his first week at the United States Penitentiary, Lompoc in Santa Barbara, CA, during which he experienced some of the most difficult moments of his life.
According to Ver, when detainees first arrive at prison, there is a process in which they are given a “security level”—essentially an evaluation of a person’s crimes as well as their potential for violent behavior that will determine which area of the prison they will be assigned to. Inmates that have not yet been given a security classification are held in the highest-security area in the prison, the SHU.
In Ver’s words, the SHU is just a euphemism for “the jail within jail.” He describes it as a tiny room containing three bunkbeds, six inmates, a toilet and a shower:
“The room was so poorly ventilated, everyone just basically strips down to their underwear and lays in their bunk because it’s so hot just from everybody’s body heat … I was in there all day Friday, all day Saturday, all day Sunday … Normally you are allowed out for one hour a day … But that’s only on weekdays I believe, and then Monday was a national holiday, so I wasn’t let out then either … I felt like my whole world was turning upside-down.”
Finally, on Ver’s fifth day in prison, he received his security classification; but Ver’s most traumatizing event was still yet to come.
The very same day he received his new bunk assignment, a guard at the prison—supposedly the jail’s “counselor”—planted a “shank” on Ver and threatened him with an additional two years on his sentence.
This was something Ver could not possibly imagine. Only 22-years old at the time, Ver started to cry:
“Of course, understandably … the tears start running down my face, because I think I’m going to be separated from my family for an additional two years on top of the ten months that I’d already barely come to grips with … And when [the guard] sees that enough tears are coming down my face and that I’m crying enough, he pats me on the shoulder and says, ‘Relax! I’m just kidding with you. Have a seat.’ And so that man just purely tortured me for his own amusement. Another guard sat there and watched the whole thing.”
According to Ver, the guard’s sick joke was representative of the way many guards treat inmates in prison:
“A lot of people also have this misconception that, ‘Well weren’t you scared about the other prisoners?’ Maybe some people you have to watch out for a little bit. But 98%, 99% of what you have to worry about in prison—it’s not other prisoners—it’s the guards. Cause the guards are there day after day after day, year after year after year, and a lot of them are really bored. Some of them maybe were nice people to begin with. Maybe some of them still are nice people. But others are there just because … they like treating people badly.”
Gary Davis and Ross Ulbricht—Why Ver is Telling his Story Now
It is at this point in the video that Ver reveals his full motivations for telling his story: Gary Davis and Ross Ulbricht.
Ulbricht is the founder of the now-defunct Silk Road website, described on FreeRoss.org as “an online marketplace with an emphasis on user privacy. Using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin on the Tor browser, people anonymously exchanged a variety of goods, both legal and illegal, including drugs.”
The Silk Road was shut down in October 2013, and Ulbricht was given a double-life sentence—an extreme punishment for someone with no criminal history being charged with all nonviolent offenses.
Ulbricht has since become a poster-child for unjust incrimination associated with the war on drugs.
Gary Davis is a less-known figure, but is currently facing similar criminal charges for even milder crimes. According to the Washington Times, Davis, a 27-year old Irishman, will be extradited to the United States where he is set to face life in prison. His charges include “monitoring user activity on Silk Road for problems, responding to customer service inquiries and resolving disputes between buyers and vendors,” according to the original indictment from December 2013.
Ver describes it differently:
“I don’t know if the world knew this or not, but we had hired Gary to help with our customer support and form stuff. He’s been working with us at Bitcoin.com for quite a while now, maybe a year or two, maybe even more … He’s been a fantastic team member and a fantastic friend, and just an all around great guy, and now he’s looking at life in prison in the United States—a country he’s never been to, never had anything to do with—for simply helping moderate a forum on the internet. They maybe talked about things that the U.S. thinks is [sic] illegal, but it’s a forum, a discussion forum where people talked about things.”
Ver hopes that by telling the story of his own prison experience, he can help spread awareness about what he calls the “federal injustice system”.
Ulbricht has been in prison for five years. Davis has agreed to surrender himself to U.S. authorities sometime in the coming weeks or months.
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