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Government The Courts

Aaron Swartz Prosecution Team Claims Online Harassment 429

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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  • 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.

  • So? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:36AM (#43356745)

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

    You reap what you sow.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by mjr167 ( 2477430 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:42AM (#43356789)

    I think we all know "someone paid me money to do it so it's not my fault" doesn't actually fly. As individuals we have free will and the responsibility to behave ethically. To unquestioningly execute commands is to give up our humanity.

    Throughout history we have frequently rejected "I was following orders" and "I was just doing my job". These mantras do not provide absolution.

  • That didn't fly for people working in the concentration camps, it doesn't fly here.

    If something doesn't pass even the basic sniff test, then you need to say NO.

  • 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:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:47AM (#43356845) Journal

    "prosecution recommended a six-month sentence in a minimal security prison, instead of 35 years ....if he pled guilty to a bunch of bullshit charges (wire fraud? seriously?).

    If you think it's OK to get 6 months when pleading guilty to bullshit charges on the threat of 35 years for even more trumped up charges then something is very very wrong with you.

    The 35 year thing is part of the appauling farce known as plea bargaining. You should read up on it.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:49AM (#43356863) Journal

    Prosecutors recommended a six-month sentence in a minimum security prison...if Swartz gave up his right to a trial. These are scumbags that deprive people of their constitutional rights on a regular basis. They would deserve to rot in prison even if Swartz hadn't committed sucicide.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:49AM (#43356867)

    The result, of course, is that they now believe that they are entirely justified.

    Bullshit, they always did believe they were justifid. Furthermore, these people have no morals -- look up "innocence project" to see how many men prosecutors knew were innocent but still prosecuted and executed.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RicoX9 ( 558353 ) <rico&rico,org> on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:50AM (#43356871) Homepage

    They still pursued someone for a victimless non-crime. There are far more worthy targets at the banks and Wall Street. I, for one, don't like my tax dollars being wasted in the meaningless pursuit of conviction rates.

  • 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.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by humphrm ( 18130 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:53AM (#43356905) Homepage

    Reading the article helps. He was arrested for "downloading excessive material". In other words, he had a legal JSTOR account, he wasn't accessing it illegally, he just downloaded more material than they wanted him to. Really? That's a crime now? Even the civil matter was settled with JSTOR, but prosecutors went ahead and harassed him anyway.

    One day in prison means the likely end of a promising technology career, and is one day too much for someone accused of "downloading excessive material".

    Just hope that one day you don't get sent to prison for going over your mobile data usage.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 04, 2013 @09:58AM (#43356953)
    online harassment?
    ONLINE harassment?!

    You scum-sucking douches hectored someone into killing themselves with hyperinflated charges intended to "send a message" to score political points. MESSAGE RECEIVED . You should never work in law or government again. You probably should be in jail for abuse of power.

    I would have no problem if someone PHYSICALLY broke each and every one of your collective kneecaps.
  • 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.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:22AM (#43357145) Journal

    And, of course, I'm told that having a felony on your record has no effect at all on your future prospects... Definitely not the sort of thing that might seriously impair somebody who might want to be able to touch a computer(that isn't a McDonalds POS terminal) in an occupational context ever again.

    "Felon" isn't quite the same level of permaban as "Sex Offender"; but the fun doesn't stop when your sentence is up.

  • by WGFCrafty ( 1062506 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:22AM (#43357151)

    I think we all know "someone paid me money to do it so it's not my fault" doesn't actually fly. As individuals we have free will and the responsibility to behave ethically. To unquestioningly execute commands is to give up our humanity.

    Throughout history we have frequently rejected "I was following orders" and "I was just doing my job". These mantras do not provide absolution.

    Nope. In the US that doesn't fly. You'll go to jail, and the ones who gave the orders will put you there. (See Abu Ghraib)

  • by SteveDorries ( 1313401 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:31AM (#43357245)
    Guilty of what though? Did his actions warrant the type of heavy handed tactics that the federal prosecutors used? Should there have been a prosecution at all, much less an arrest made?
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:42AM (#43357337)

    Conspiracy? Go out and do a survey, ask around, and I don't mean asking hackers and activists, take Mr. Joe Random Average. When even my dad, an old-school ultra-conservative who makes Reagan look like a hippy, says that things ain't right and that the status quo ain't something to be supported, you know that something's not running right in this society.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:47AM (#43357393) Journal

    He was offered a choice, and one of those choices was "take this case to trial." He wasn't "deprived of" shit, until he "deprived himself of" living.

    He was offered a choice. That choice was to exercise his constitutional rights and face years in prison, or don't exercise his rights and face months in prison. If you can't exercise a right without facing punishment from the government, you don't really have a right at all.

    Plea barganing is nothing more than punshment for exercising your rights. It should be abolished entirely.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:48AM (#43357411)

    If injustice turns into justice, resistance becomes an obligation.

    For your information (and in this case I don't even mind invoking Godwin), acceptance (not support, mere acceptance) of inhumane, unjust laws is what makes dictatorships possible in the first place. You think everyone in Germany between 1933 and 1945 was a die-hard Nazi, hell bent on eliminating the Jews and all other "Untermenschen"? Trust me, no. It was a rather small minority. But they made the laws. What made it possible was the great majority of people who went "it's the law, what should I do?"

  • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chihowa ( 366380 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @10:49AM (#43357421)

    if Swartz gave up his right to a trial.

    And he could have taken it to trial and:
    1) Perhaps won the case, and spent zero time in jail;
    2) Perhaps lost, and gotten the 6-month sentence recommended by prosecutors;
    3) Perhaps lost, and gotten MORE than that time, up to and including 35 years;

    That's not justice. If six months is an acceptable punishment, why is 35 years even on the table? Those are pretty big stakes to be gambling on.

    Even if you are innocent and know you're innocent, would you gamble on a trial going wrong and you being in prison for the bulk of your life (just for having the audacity to ask for a trial)? The prosecutors were continuously telling him that they has his ass nailed. How does that capricious and malevolent system in any way represent justice?

  • 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 MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @11:25AM (#43357891) Journal

    Guilty of what amounts to a pretty minor infraction. The notion that a punishment should fit the crime should have been the overwhelming concern of the prosecutors, but they showed themselves to be power-mad maniacs, or at least in one case, a sociopath who couldn't have given the tiniest shit about justice and was trying to pave a way to political career with some sort of "tough on crime" record.

  • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AlamedaStone ( 114462 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @11:53AM (#43358213)

    Oh boy, seriously? Unjust laws? Okay, 35 years might be high, but there is a huge difference between penalties being too high for a specific criminal behavior and really unjust laws like enforced segregation or discrimination based on gender, race or orientation.

    How do you measure the injustice of an entire life's course torn away with a bogus felony charge? Just because this isn't an issue of gender, race or orientation doesn't mean it isn't about civil rights.

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

    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.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @12:35PM (#43358649) Journal

    When you are commit a crime you forfeit some of your constitutional rights.

    Does the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" ring a bell? Until you've had a trial and been found guilty, you retain all of your rights.

  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @01:52PM (#43359641) Journal

    He was offered a chance to plead guilty with a punishment of 6 months.

    If he forfeited his right to a trial. Why is that so hard to understand? Rights are only meaningful if you can exercise them without interference from the government.

    If I tell you that if you put your hand in a wood chip you will lose your hand. That's a fact not a threat.

    If you tell me that I must plead guilty to a crime or you will put my hand in a woodchipper, that is a threat. That's what happened to Swartz, and every other victim of plea bargains.

  • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday April 04, 2013 @02:03PM (#43359837) Journal

    When you commit a crime, you forfeit some of your rights, upto and including all of your rights (life/death). Determining if you committed a crime or not, is up to the courts to decide. AS was arrested and charged with crimes, and in the middle of the legal process, and was offered a sure thing versus an unsure outcome, the plea bargain.

    If he didn't commit to a crime, then he should have gone to trial, and made the prosecution make the case that he broke the law. Otherwise, he should have taken the plea deal. The fact is, he was charged with breaking the law, and most people here are protesting the law he was charged with breaking, not the facts that he did the deed.

    This is important distinction, and is being overlooked by too many people. Should AS be charged? Yes, according to the laws he was being charged with breaking, the facts are really not in dispute, not really. The issue is that the laws he was charged with breaking were unfair, and that is also not in dispute.

    This is where and why we need Jury Nullification instructions, where the Jury not only judges the facts of the case, but the merits of the law itself. The Jury box is the last defense against unfair laws. Problem is, the state has a definitive interest in not allowing for Jury Nullification instructions.

    If you want to help the next person charged with an unfair law, become an advocate for Jury Nullification. The state doesn't have ultimate power, We the People do, we need to learn to exercise it .

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