Lawmakers Demand Answers from Federal Prosecutors About Aaron Swartz Case

Two U.S. lawmakers have asked federal prosecutors at the Department of Justice to answer a series of questions about the prosecution of Reddit co-founder and internet activist Aaron Swartz. In a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) want to DOJ to explain why federal prosecutors sought up to 50 years in prison and $1 million in fines for Swartz, who committed suicide prior to his trial. Swartz was arrested in 2011 for downloading 4.8 million documents from the academic archive JSTOR.

The questions lawmakers want answered, according to the letter (found here) are:

1.What factors influenced the decision to prosecute Mr. Swartz for the crimes alleged in the indictment, including the decisions regarding what crimes to charge and the filing of the superseding indictment?

2.Was Mr. Swartz's opposition to SOPA or his association with any advocacy groups considered?

3.What specific plea offers were made to Mr. Swartz, and what factors influenced the decisions by prosecutors regarding plea offers made to Mr. Swartz?

4.How did the criminal charges, penalties sought, and plea offers in this case compare to those of other cases that have been prosecuted or considered for prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?

5.Did the federal investigation of Mr. Swartz reveal evidence that he had committed other hacking violations?

6.What factors influenced the Department's decisions regarding sentencing proposals?

7.Why was a superseding indictment necessary?

Many lawmakers think Carmen Ortiz, the Massachusetts US attorney whose office was prosecuting Aaron Swartz, went too far. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) is one of those lawmakers – she introduced "Aaron's Law" to limit the reach of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Rights Group Demand Progress is demanding that the White House fire Ortiz. If you feel the same way, you can join in that effort here. They contend that Ortiz has a history of prosecutorial overreach and misconduct. Some examples include a failed three-year bid to seize a Tewksbury, Ma. motel from its owner using drug seizure laws because his guest were selling drugs (read about that here) and the wrongful arrest of 30-year-old O’Neil Taylor, who feds picked up and later had to release pending further investigation. Unfortunately prosecutors have not dropped the drug conspiracy charges against Taylor (read about that mess here).

Source: Ars Technica

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