A British court this week declined to overturn the eight-year prison sentence of a man who used a dark net drug market to buy enough ricin to kill 1,400 people.
Mohammed Ammer Ali of Liverpool, England, lost his appeal a year after being sentenced to eight years in prison for purchasing the deadly substance.
Ali, 32, tried to buy the drug on dark net markets but ended up contacting an undercover agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who alerted authorities in the United Kingdom. Ali first heard about the drug after watching the TV show Breaking Bad.
“I was interested in the dark web and ricin,” he said in court last year. “I just wanted to know what the fuss was about.”
Ali has maintained that he never planned to hurt anyone. In conversations with a vendor on the dark net, he asked how to test the ricin. The vendor told him to kill a rat. Authorities who searched Ali’s computer found a text file with a list of tasks like “paid ricin guy” and “get pet to murder.”
Ali ordered 500 milligrams of ricin on the black market, using the anonymity network Tor to navigate it and paying with bitcoins, the hard-to-trace digital currency.
Despite his precautions, Ali eventually had to provide his physical address to take delivery of the ricin. British police delivered this toy car filled with fake poison to Ali in February 2015.
Ali, who has two children, was diagnosed with mild Asperger syndrome, but the judge sought a “deterrent sentence” for him.
“Everyone needs to know that the possession of a chemical weapon is extremely serious and long prison sentences will follow,” Justice John Saunders said in court last year.
Ali based his appeal on a “safety interview” conducted outside his home following his arrest, when he did not have a lawyer present.
Police say they were asking him if any other harmful substances were present in his home, but his lawyer said evidence from the interview ought to be excluded at trial.
But Justice Colman Treacy denied this appeal and called the sentence “severe but justifiable.”