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US Attorney Chided Swartz On Day of Suicide 656

Posted by samzenpus
from the rest-in-peace dept.
theodp writes "The e-mail that Defendant Swartz's supplemental memorandum (pdf) cites as paramount to his fifth motion to suppress [evidence against him] is relevant, but not nearly as important as he tries to make it out to be,' quipped United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz (pdf) in a court filing made on the same day Aaron Swartz committed suicide. In the 1-7-2011 e-mail Ortiz refers to, which was not produced for Swartz until Dec. 14th — almost two years after his 1-6-2011 arrest — a Secret Service agent reported to the Assistant U.S. Attorney that he was 'prepared to take custody anytime' of Swartz's laptop, although no one had yet sought a warrant to search the computer. In Prosecutor as Bully, Larry Lessig laments, 'They [JSTOR] declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the "criminal" who we who loved him knew as Aaron.' Swartz's family also had harsh words for MIT and prosecutors: 'Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron.' With MIT President Emeritus Charles M. Vest currently serving as a Trustee of JSTOR parent Ithaka as well as a Trustee of The MIT Corporation, one might have expected MIT to issue a statement similar to the let's-put-this-behind-us one JSTOR made on the Swartz case back in 2011."
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US Attorney Chided Swartz On Day of Suicide

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  • Who? (Score:5, Informative)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:39AM (#42574195) Homepage

    Swartz was an American computer programmer, writer, archivist, political organizer, and Internet activist. Swartz co-authored the "RSS 1.0" specification of RSS, and built the Web site framework web.py and the architecture for the Open Library. He also built Infogami, a company that merged with Reddit in its early days, through which he became an equal owner of the merged company.

    On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested in connection with systematic downloading of academic journal articles from JSTOR, which became the subject of a federal investigation.[2][3] JSTOR offended Swartz mainly for two reasons: it charged large fees for access to these articles but did not compensate the authors and it ensured that huge numbers of people are denied access to the scholarship produced by America's colleges and universities.[4][5] On January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn, apartment, where he had hanged himself.
      - Wikipedia

  • Re:So now (Score:3, Informative)

    by arcade (16638) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:43AM (#42574223) Homepage

    No, we expect prosecutors not to be utter shitbags. This one Carmen M Ortiz is obviously a psychopath that should never ever serve in a public office.

    She needs to hear that she's nothing but a mean, horrible subhuman.

  • by fantomas (94850) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:45AM (#42574229)
  • by msobkow (48369) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:49AM (#42574259) Homepage Journal

    Because the whole case was a sham put forth by the US AGO. Even JSTOR, the "offended" party, didn't want to pursue the matter. It was the US government that butchered this man with their brutal legal system and relentless pursuit of him. Make no mistake about that.

    The pursuit was even more vicious and determined than that of the MPAA and RIAA with their letters and lawsuits over copyright violations.

  • by Yarhj (1305397) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:50AM (#42574263)
    A lot of people are outraged over the prosecutorial overreach in this case (and, by extension, the tradition of prosecutorial overreach in most cases prosecuted by the federal government), and a petition has popped up to remove the DA in charge of this case: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-states-district-attorney-carmen-ortiz-office-overreach-case-aaron-swartz/RQNrG1Ck [whitehouse.gov]

    It's a start, though what I'd really like to see is some proper judicial reform, so we can bring some sanity to the judicial system.

    Links to the Ars coverage of this story:
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/01/internet-pioneer-and-information-activist-takes-his-own-life/ [arstechnica.com]
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/01/family-blames-us-attorneys-for-death-of-aaron-swartz/ [arstechnica.com]
  • by pkbarbiedoll (851110) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:55AM (#42574287)

    The group of psychopaths also known as the Roswell City Council pushed Andrew Wordes (also known as the Roswell Chicken Man) to take his life in March 2012 [patch.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @11:17AM (#42574429)

    He allegedly broke into MIT's network to violate the terms of access for JSTOR, circumvented attempts to stop him from doing so, and then said he was preparing to release what he downloaded. It's an accusation that was unproven in court, but *IF* true, then he was a criminal. Yes, it was a principled protest deserving of some respect -- he obviously had reasons for doing so other than personal benefit -- but the fact that he killed himself does not negate the fact that there were legitimate grounds for him being charged with some kind of crime. Even Lessig conditionally acknowledges this (i.e. also with a big "IF true"). While deep sympathy for his situation is deserved, before or after his suicide, if he had mental health problems potentially driving him to suicide those should have been brought to the attention of the prosecutors and perhaps he could have gotten the help he needed. If they weren't aware, then the prosecutors were doing the job they were tasked to do. Bullies? Yes. That's sometimes the perception of their job in the legal sense.

    It's a terrible tragedy, but I can't get beyond this feeling in my gut that what he did -- if true -- was still wrong, and there should have been some kind of legal repercussions. 30 years? No, that's utterly ridiculous. But the police and prosecutors were probably applying pressure in the hopes of getting a guilty plea to a lesser charge as the most reasonable way out. It's normal to be as comprehensive as possible with charges. According to Lessig, one of the hang-ups in negotiations was the potential label "felon". That's a big word with serious implications that last for years if convicted, but it also isn't the end of the world. If prosecutors didn't have an idea that Swartz would be pushed to suicide as an alternative to the costly and slowly-grinding wheels of the legal system, how could they know this would be the outcome of such pressure?

    I'm sorry if this says things people don't want to hear, but I still think what Swartz allegedly did was wrong, even if I think the level of punishment being proposed was ridiculous. The trial would have been a horrible experience for anyone, but I just can't understand why he chose this way out of the situation. It's very sad. And now we'll never hear his formal defense.

  • A Modest Question (Score:5, Informative)

    by poena.dare (306891) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @11:39AM (#42574591)

    How many MIT student pranks ended with felony charges?

    I highly recommend reading Alex Stamos' thoughts on Aaron Swartz:

    The Truth about Aaron Swartz's "Crime"
    http://unhandled.com/2013/01/12/the-truth-about-aaron-swartzs-crime/ [unhandled.com]

  • Re:So now (Score:5, Informative)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday January 13, 2013 @11:46AM (#42574623) Homepage

    About 30 days in jail and a hundred bucks for trespassing. That'd be the going rate.

    Timothy Lee wrote the definitive article in 2011 explaining why, even if all the allegations in the indictment are true, the only real crime committed by Swartz was basic trespassing, for which people are punished, at most, with 30 days in jail and a $100 fine, about which Lee wrote: "That seems about right: if he's going to serve prison time, it should be measured in days rather than years."

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/12/aaron-swartz-heroism-suicide1 [guardian.co.uk]

  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Informative)

    by Luckyo (1726890) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @12:10PM (#42574777)

    That used to be role of the media.

    Then media was consolidated in the hands of the few with vested interest in not shaking the boat when they have installed their own captain and navigator crew.

    What makes you think this 4th branch of government wouldn't just get corrupted like media did?

  • Remember Rudy? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rmdingler (1955220) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @12:20PM (#42574845)
    This is not a commentary on right or wrong. We're not talking about a young man with an IQ of 65 on death row for a crime he may not understand. Aaron Schwartz was by every reckoning a very smart man. He must have at least considered there could be consequences and repercussions for his actions. Imagine the idea that zealously prosecuting famous people publicly is a career maker...the Giuliani Axiom, if you will. 35 years? IANAL, but you never see these white collar cases serving or being sentenced to anything close to the maximum of all the charges stacked together. Mr Schwartz was intelligent enough to realize these things. It is highly likely, given his incredible success at such a young age, that he was ill prepared to deal with bad things happening to him. ______________Feel free to mod this down without conscience: I was born poor, stayed that way for a good while, and bad things and I are not at all strangers.
  • Re:terrorism (Score:5, Informative)

    by roninmagus (721889) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @12:50PM (#42575065)
    You've obviously never seen "A Few Good Men" and and can't identify the quotation, or the outcome to the person who said it. Get over yourself.
  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Informative)

    by pla (258480) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @12:59PM (#42575121) Journal
    Do you know what a public defender is?

    Either an underpaid version of a lawyer doing a job they'd rather not, or the bottom of the legal barrel that can't get a better job.


    Are you aware that they are available to those charged in all criminal prosecutions?

    Are you aware that the truth of that depends on your financial situation and willingness to bankrupt yourself defending against an opponent with essentially infinite resources?

    The 6th amendment guarantees your right to counsel. It doesn't guarantee your right to free, or even necessarily very good counsel.
  • Re:So now (Score:2, Informative)

    by postofreason (1305523) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @01:02PM (#42575147)
    There was NO THEFT. At least not according to the supposed victims. There was even less theft in reality.
  • Re:Yawn (Score:5, Informative)

    by milkmage (795746) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @02:05PM (#42575641)

    ...and what law was broken?

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/01/family-blames-us-attorneys-for-death-of-aaron-swartz/ [arstechnica.com]

    Stamos goes on to write that MIT runs an “open, unmonitored and unrestricted network on purpose. Their head of network security admitted as much in an interview Aaron’s attorneys and I conducted in December. MIT is aware of the controls they could put in place to prevent what they consider abuse, such as downloading too many PDFs from one website or utilizing too much bandwidth, but they choose not to.” In addition, he wrote, MIT did not require users of its network to agree to any terms of use, nor did JSTOR take any steps to prevent large-scale downloads of its PDFs.

    "millions of dollars".. in ACADEMIC papers? really?

    worst case is trespassing because he entered the network closet w/o permission. tresspassing does not warrant 30 years. ever.

    overzealous resume padding is the reason the US Atty continued with this sham.

  • Re:Shame on MIT (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @02:50PM (#42575953)

    In the olden days one used to trespass all the time. People were going through and around locked doors and getting unauthorized access. It was par for the course. Read Steven Levy's canonical account Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.

    Looks like today it's petty bureacrazy (sic) and inhuman objectivity. Toe the line, drones!

  • Re:Remember Mitnick? (Score:4, Informative)

    by DarwinSurvivor (1752106) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @04:33PM (#42576615)

    For some reason US courts tend to put people in jail longer for hacking a computer and not stealing anything than for multiple violent armed robberies lately.

    That reason is fear. Well over 95% of the US population (probably true for most countries) knows absolutely nothing about hackers except what they see in movies and on the news. They see them as anti-social control freaks bent on world domination that can only be stopped by being locked up or "reverse-hacked" by some skinny guy they temporarily let out of prison for having done the same thing. Americans (think they) know how to stop an armed robber, they shoot him with THEIR gun. They feel utterly powerless against hackers because you can't physically get to them, they have no technical abilities of their own to get to them virtually and governments and media have been slowly ramping up their stories of "1 geek with a payphone can start a nuclear war, shut down all power stations or make all the computers explode in a fiery shower of red and yellow sparks". This is the first time since magic was invented the public has had to deal with something they are completely and utterly unable to understand or fell they can protect themselves from.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

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