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Aaron Swartz Prosecution Team Claims Online Harassment 429

Posted by timothy
from the dogma-meets-karma dept.
twoheadedboy writes "Members of the legal team responsible for prosecution of Aaron Swartz have claimed they received threatening letters and emails, and some had their social network accounts hacked, following the suicide of the Internet freedom activist. Following Swartz's death, his family and friends widely lambasted the prosecution team, who were accused of being heavy-handed in their pursuit of the 26-year-old. He was facing trial for alleged copyright infringement, accused of downloading excessive amounts of material from the academic article resource JSTOR. U.S. attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz, who headed up the prosecution, and another lead prosecutor, Stephen Heymann, have reportedly become the target of 'harassing and threatening messages,' and their personal information, including home address, personal telephone number, and the names of family members and friends, was posted online. Heymann also received a postcard with a picture of his father's head in a guillotine."
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Aaron Swartz Prosecution Team Claims Online Harassment

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  • So sad (Score:5, Funny)

    by T.E.D. (34228) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:34AM (#43356719)
    Being constantly harrassed like that must be hell. I'm sure Aaron Swart's family and friends have nothing but sympathy for those poor harried prosecutors.
    • Re:So sad (Score:4, Funny)

      by ameen.ross (2498000) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:56AM (#43356937)

      I just hope that this horror won't lead any of them to do an unthinkable act, like *gasp* suicide!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:37AM (#43357295)

      FFS, why on earth hasn't she been sacked yet?

      She tried to undermine the courts using an insane number of BS claims, trying to force Aaron to accept a guilty plea rather than let the court decide.

      THAT'S NOT HER JOB. It's the OPPOSITE of her job.

      She made political speeches on the back of this case, to promote her political career. At some point she should have been fired for misconduct, but she wasn't. The threats and anger relate to HER INCOMPETENCE at the job.

      Just resign already Carmen, nobody wants you, every prosecution with your name on it, is tainted, because judges will automatically assume you're doing another insane overreach. Do the nice thing, hand in your resignation, you made a mistake, you want to spend more time with your family and FUCK OFF.

      • by Frobnicator (565869) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @12:18PM (#43358475) Journal

        THAT'S NOT HER JOB. It's the OPPOSITE of her job.

        You must be new to the modern legal system.

        97% of all federal court cases end with a plea bargain. Last year the SCOTUS ruled on Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper, those bound it up even tighter. Go look them up.

        Justice Scalia wrote on them: "the Court today opens a whole new field of constitutionalized criminal procedure: plea-bargaining law. The ordinary criminal process has become too long, too expensive, and unpredictable, in no small part as a consequence of an intricate federal Code of Criminal Procedure imposed on the States by this Court in pursuit of perfect justice. ... The Court now moves to bring perfection to the alternative in which prosecutors and defendants have sought relief. Today’s opinions deal with only two aspects of counsel’s plea-bargaining inadequacy, and leave other aspects (who knows what they might be?) to be worked out in further constitutional litigation that will burden the criminal process. And it would be foolish to think that “constitutional” rules governing counsel’s behavior will not be followed by rules governing the prosecution’s behavior in the plea bargaining process that the Court today announces “‘is the criminal justice system,’” Is it constitutional, for example, for the prosecution to with draw a plea offer that has already been accepted? Or to withdraw an offer before the defense has had adequate time to consider and accept it? Or to make no plea offer at all, even though its case is weak—thereby excluding the defendant from “the criminal justice system”?

        He also wrote: The plea-bargaining process is a subject worthy of regulation, since it is the means by which most criminal convictions are obtained. It happens not to be, however, a subject covered by the Sixth Amendment, which is concerned not with the fairness of bargaining but with the fairness of conviction. The Constitution . . . is not an allpurpose tool for judicial construction of a perfect world; and when we ignore its text in order to make it that, we often find ourselves swinging a sledge where a tack hammer is needed.

  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:35AM (#43356725) Journal

    They deserve to rot away in prison for a few decades. They should be happy that harassment is all they get.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:35AM (#43356727)

    The prosecution still has the files for the prosecution under a gag order. They are asking to extend this gag order and are using the excuse that their safety could be harmed if a judge lifted it. In reality, all they are trying to do is cover up their misconduct.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:35AM (#43356729) Homepage

    Activism is useless when it is aimed at unproductive channels. Instead, they should have signed the petition to remove the DA in question. Or written a letter to the state.
    Petition to remove DA Carmen Ortiz [whitehouse.gov]

    • Instead, they should have signed the petition to remove the DA in question.

      Yeah, that's gonna work...

      Maybe instead, we should vote out the republicans and democrats, but I suppose that's too much to ask. Besides, we would probably just end up with the tea party loons, or worse. I think majority rule has run its course. All the ignorance is becoming such a burden.

    • by Elbereth (58257)

      Signing Internet petitions is only marginally less useless and pointless than harassing government employees. In fact, if I made a list of the most pointless activism on Internet, they would be:

      1. Printing form letters and mailing them to Congresspeople
      2. Writing e-mails to Congresspeople
      3. Signing Internet petitions
      4. Complaining loudly on Internet forums
      5. Hacking and vandalism
      6. Publishing a batshit crazy manifesto
      7. DDOSing the government
      8. Sending death threats via e-mail

      That's in vague order of (comp

      • by jythie (914043)
        I would actually put it at significantly more useless. Internet petitions do nothing, they have no impact, they will not represent a negative consequence for the party they are aimed at hurting. Harassment, while not a very good tool, and a tool with its own problems, at least has a personal impact on the person being targeted, one that both they and others in similar roles can see and factor in to future decision making.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Activism is useless when it is aimed at unproductive channels. Instead, they should have signed the petition

      Lolwut?

    • Activism is useless when it is aimed at unproductive channels. Instead, they should have signed the petition to remove the DA in question. Or written a letter to the state.

      Thanks for the laugh. I needed that right now.

  • And yet.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:36AM (#43356743) Homepage Journal

    For some reason, I just can't seem to feel bad for these assholes.

    • Re:And yet.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:40AM (#43356783) Homepage Journal

      I can. Not for the harassment, or the "hacking" of their social network pages. That's an almost inevitable consequence. I feel bad for them because they were doing their job of prosecuting a law that shouldn't exist. Nothing says prosecutors have to agree with the law.

      • Re:And yet.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Xeth (614132) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:44AM (#43356813) Journal
        Prosecutors have discretion. They are not required to prioritize every case and put forward the largest number of possible charges.
      • Re:And yet.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by SirGeek (120712) <sirgeek-slashdot&mrsucko,org> on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:45AM (#43356821) Homepage

        True (to some extent), but they could have just said "Plead Guilty to this misdemeanor and pay 1,000 in fines."

        Instead they chose to prosecute him for EVERYTHING they could (with potentially 30+ years in prison). That, they didn't have to do.

        They wanted to make an example of him. PERIOD.

      • by mjr167 (2477430)

        It's called prosecutorial discretion. Nothing requires you to enforce a law. Just the other day the supreme court ripped on Obama for just this issue regarding DOMA:

        If he has made a determination that executing the law by enforcing the terms is unconstitutional, I don’t see why he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions and execute not only the statute, but do it consistent with his view of the Constitution, rather than saying, oh, we’ll wait till the Supreme Court tells us we have no choice.

      • I can. Not for the harassment, or the "hacking" of their social network pages. That's an almost inevitable consequence. I feel bad for them because they were doing their job of prosecuting a law that shouldn't exist. Nothing says prosecutors have to agree with the law.

        Ever heard of prosecutorial/judicial discretion? It is part of our legal institutions, and it is what differentiate good prosecutors from Javert-wannabes trying to make their mark.

  • So? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I don't see a problem with it at all.

    You reap what you sow.

  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:37AM (#43356749)

    Gee whillikers. Karma. How's that work?

  • so? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:39AM (#43356765) Journal

    Eye for and eye, tooth for a tooth. It could be much worse, you politically driven RIAA/MPAA hatchetmen, aka Federal Prosecutors.

    • by cdrudge (68377)

      It could be much worse, you politically driven RIAA/MPAA hatchetmen, aka Federal Prosecutors.

      The funny thing with this statement is that this case had nothing to do with the RIAA or MPAA.

  • When a bunch of people think you killed a dude, you're going to get harassed. Look at OJ. Those guys are just like OJ. All "looking for the real killers" out on the golf course. The difference? One is a petty thug, while the other used to play football. :-P
  • Trying not to say... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scotts13 (1371443) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:49AM (#43356861)

    "Sucks to be you"... Aw, shoot, I already did.

    Seriously, though, threats are not the way to accomplish anything here. Rather than online vigilantism, people who have strong feelings about this should be talking to newspapers, senators, congressmen, etc. That way they might actually get something changed, and incidentally make these peoples lives difficult as a happy bonus. Remember, these are the people who (for this purpose) define right and wrong. If you want to go after them, short of full revolution, you have to play by their rules. Otherwise you're just another criminal they can use to justify their tactics.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:53AM (#43356901)

    As a former DOJ employee involved mainly with the BOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons), I witnessed a long history of overaggressiveness on the part of US Attorneys (mainly, the AUSA's- the Assitants)... my experience with the court people was often that the AUSA's were trying to make names for themselves and build up their resumes, in hopes of: 1) becoming full US Attorneys, 2) seeking phat money employment in the private sector, or 3) eventually running for some political office.

    The females I interacted with were often the most aggressive and over the top- often utilizing severe bias based on their personal lives to make decisions affecting cases... female USA's with histories of being abused by men often saw no possibility of innocence in ANY male defendant, regardless of any facts. In several instances I witnessed state prosecutors refuse to indict based on lack of evidence and/or the specifics of the defendant (i.e. no criminal history, relatively minor charge at state level), only to have a federal prosecutor (an AUSA) throw federal charges at the defendant based on something loose like "the crime involved phones (i.e. modem)", so therefore it could be considered interstate blah blah and allow federal jurisdiction. The startling statistics I discovered were the following:

    over 90% of individuals indicted at the federal level are convicted without trial (i.e. plead guilty)
    of the remaining approx. 10% who go to trial, 90% LOSE, and are convicted

    Do we really believe the federal investigators are so good they really only catch that amount of "bad guys"?

    The prosecutors often have NO CLUE whatsoever of technical details of complex issues (i.e. computer related incidents, copyright/piracy, etc). They further confuse things by often presenting information that is outright wrong or confusing to judges or others involved in the process, and often play on the fact the defendants often have no clue of the true law and their rights. At the federal level at least IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS INDEED A VALID DEFENSE. Several federal laws have been changed over the years to add the specific wording "whoever knowingly", because in some cases obscure laws were being abused to prosecute people who had no valid way of knowing that what they did was illegal (i.e. the law was not some "common sense" thing... like a law saying it is illegal to sow grass seed on Tuesday).

    I have no comment on the Aaron Swartz case as I don't know all the facts and it is always a damn shame when someone chooses to resort to suicide, but based on my personal experience with "the system" from the inside, I can say that there is no doubt the prosecutor and others on "that side" did indeed play a major role in pushing this troubled young man towards a terrible fate-- and no matter what they say to the contrary, their overaggressiveness in a case involving copyrights for God's sake was truly uncalled for and ultimately serves no proper purpose for the sake of society.

  • I am afraid this sort of vigilante action is never actually productive. Already the targets are using this to justify keeping details on this case from public view.

    What should be going on is pressuring public officials and the press to demand a review of the actions that led to this tragedy, and changes to laws to prevent this from happening again. Instead these attacks are only likely to be used to institute more draconian laws.

  • In a certain sort of twisted way this seems appropriate. I mean that there is no accountability for their actions in the harassment of Aaron Swartz. If these prosecutors went well above and beyond the normal course of action to give this guy a hard time they should have some accountability for their actions. If the legal system / government isn't going to hold their own representatives accountable for their actions then maybe it needs to come down to the people holding them accountable directly. Sort of lik

  • In their minds, they were just "doing their jobs"
    They are clearly unrepentant.
    Does that justify taking this any further?
    Of course not.

    Vigilante expressions like this never promote good results.

    • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:28AM (#43357211)

      In their minds, they were just "doing their jobs" They are clearly unrepentant. Does that justify taking this any further? Of course not.

      Vigilante expressions like this never promote good results.

      As I recall, showing remorse can get you a lighter punishment. Maybe they should do that. Or they could agree to quit their jobs in exchange for less harassment, kind of a bargain, if you will.

      So vigilante actions might not work. Writing your elected officials doesn't either unless you can afford to include a big campaign contribution. So if both approaches don't improve the situation, why not go with the one that's more gratifying?

      Maybe it will result in even harsher laws. The worse, the better, in terms of getting the general public to finally be fed up.

      Oh, who am I kidding? I just enjoy seeing them suffer. There. I said it.

      • by tnk1 (899206) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @11:25AM (#43357889)

        I wonder if they are actually suffering. They could be parlaying their "pain" into a reason to avoid people looking into their prosecutorial conduct. The real solution for the aggressiveness of the US Attorneys is to open up the actual documents to a reasoned review of the case and what was being discussed. Assuming it was aggressive and out of scale to the crime actually committed, you can point to actual situations that need to change and advocate a positive political change. Just hacking these guys does little to nothing because they've already done their damage, and I doubt other US Attorneys will do more than just shrug at their colleagues' problems and continue to do the same things they have always done.

  • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:04AM (#43357005) Homepage

    Aaron Swartz Prosecution Team Claims Online Harassment

    As you sow, so shall you reap Monsieur Javert.

    This particular phrase and verse is most fitting to describe whatever they are going through (that which will forever pale in comparison to what Swartz when through.)

    What comes around goes around and shit like that, and you reap what you sow. C'est la fucking vie.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:06AM (#43357017) Homepage

    Government, specifically law enforcement, tend to threaten people with all sorts of scary crap in order to get people to do things they don't want to do. In Swartz's case, he wasn't doing anything strictly illegal but they wanted to believe he did so badly and the JSTOR people want to believe he did so badly that they were willing to harrass and frighten this guy to the point of suicide. After all, they were threatening his life in the sense that he would no longer have a good one.

    So now, there is turn-about and they cry foul.

    Why is it acceptable for law enforcement to use threats and fear as a means of getting their jobs done. Isn't it they that went too far? Shouldn't it be "okay, we have evidence of X, let's charge him with X" and be done with it? Why is it "we think he has done Y, but we only have evidence of X which is not specifically illegal. So let's threaten him with Z until he pleas to Y."

    Harrassment and intimidation by government should not be allowed. Just do straight business.

    • by pdabbadabba (720526) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:17AM (#43357105) Homepage

      In Swartz's case, he wasn't doing anything strictly illegal

      No, he was. As has been quite widely discussed here and elsewhere he was accused of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and, from what I've read, he probably was actually "guilty". And, yes, 35 years is the actual punishment. Sure, the prosecutors have discretion in prosecuting crimes, but I continue to be amazed that all of our abuse is heaped upon the prosecutors for trying to enforce a law THAT CONGRESS ACTUALLY PASSED. Don't get me wrong, I think that 35 years (or, really, any punishment at all) for what Swartz did is nuts.And I think that there is an under-appreciated moral dimension to the prosecution decisions that US attorneys make. But then again, do we really want a system where the prosecutors feel free to enforce a law or not based on their own preferences? Isn't this what a legislature is for? Why are we focusing on the prosecutors who tried to enforce it instead of the actual people who passed and have the power to fix the law?

      • by zyzko (6739)

        But then again, do we really want a system where the prosecutors feel free to enforce a law or not based on their own preferences? Isn't this what a legislature is for? Why are we focusing on the prosecutors who tried to enforce it instead of the actual people who passed and have the power to fix the law?

        No, we do not. But we want a leeway in the justice system - that's why the justice system is separated from the legislature. Geeks (and some lawyers) really do feast when they found a technicality in law and they can say "Haha! I did not technically do it!" but if our justice system worked that way we could just feed the rules to a computer and get rid of all the lawyers, jurys and judges. Of course there has to be checks and balances, and make sure that people are treated equally in the front of the court.

      • by Logic and Reason (952833) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @12:26PM (#43358557) Homepage

        But then again, do we really want a system where the prosecutors feel free to enforce a law or not based on their own preferences?

        That's already the case, and it's EXACTLY what created the scenario with Swartz (and countless other victims of our "justice" system). The fact that prosecutors have that kind of leeway is part of what allows insane laws like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to remain on the books.

        Of course, the government loves laws like that, because it lets them really throw the book at people they don't like (or threaten to do so in order to obtain an easy plea bargain). When practically everyone's a criminal and enforcement is selective, they can do whatever the hell they want to anybody.

  • As we know, there is no privacy anymore. Hence, prosecutors are going to be facing more and more of this sort of thing. You cannot hide. Ask that DA in Texas. Once prosecutors become aware of this, they might become smart enough to NOT mount silly prosecutions like this - but I doubt it. If you as a prosecutor think your own bureaucracy can protect you, think again. I'm predicting an increase in violence against prosecutors and law enforcement in general.
  • http://www.businessinsider.com/texas-da-killing-is-unprecedented-2013-4 [businessinsider.com]

    Although this is an unpopular view, my take on it is that if we abandon the legitimate means in our system of recalling these people, we weaken those means and force the debate into an unnecessarily volatile mode.

    Think with your logic, not your emotions :)

  • by hawks5999 (588198) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:10AM (#43357047)
    It involves a noose.
  • ... playing the world's saddest song. On the world's smallest violin.

  • A functional justice system keeps us from descending to the level of personal vengeance and feuding.

    It is very sad to see the Justice system failing here.

    No one has officially called these prosecutors out on their failings in any other way so we get this. I don't think harassment of these prosecutors and MIT and JSTOR is the appropriate reaction. Nor do I think it is the appropriate reaction that the prosecutors have not been reprimanded and appropriate taken to keep non-sense like this from happen

  • Am not surprised in the least.

  • Having been the defendant in a situation like adam was in, and having seen the options laid out in front of me by the prosecutor (Pay 25,000$ now and avoid the case all together, or chance spending time in prison and pay $25,000 later) I can say that maybe if these prosecutors didn't believe in what they were doing with the conviction that they exhibit when they're flat out telling you to cough up some cash or you're going to prison, If they did, then maybe, just maybe they wouldn't be waffling about their
  • by mbone (558574) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:44AM (#43357361)

    We live in a country where the powerless are routinely made scapegoats for the crimes of the powerful, and the powerful are almost never brought to account. Given that, it is no surprise that the citizens are taking matters into their own hands. Expect for it to get worse as long as those preconditions continue.

    • This is a prime example of how "mob rule" only becomes an issue in civilized societies when the "rule" itself becomes corrupted beyond the point where the people subject to it can stomach it anymore. Anyone here think that this would have happened if some kind of action had been taken to see whether the prosecution went overboard and some kind of examination took place?

      The whole REASON for the harassment now happening is simply that there has been no such thing, that this was treated as if it was just norma

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