Hacking defendant's suicide spurs debate over prosecutorial overreach

, The National Law Journal


Political activist Aaron Swartz was charged in 2011 in Boston federal district court with the unauthorized use of a university's networks to download millions of articles from the online archive JSTOR. His suicide last Friday instantly triggered a wave of criticism aimed at prosecutors' alleged overzealousness in the pursuit of criminal charges.

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What's being said

  • Pancho

    Swartz was tormented for years by this relentless prosecution and his family was pauperized by it. He never stood to gain a penny for his actions.

    JSTOR dropped its request for prosecution of the case long ago, with only MIT remaining as an alleged "victim."

    The disproportionality in prosecution is palpable. Congressmen, such as Don Young, get a pass, despite solid cases against them. Wall Street perpetrators of staggering thievery are virtually immune for personal responsibility for the destruction of the economy. None of the Bush perjurers or those who lied to facilitate the invasion and occupation of Iraq are held accountable.

    One gets the impression that Eric Holder has never met a billionaire he didn't like.

    On the other hand, his zeal for prosecuting licensed medical marijuana growers rivals that of Ashcroft and he is Julian Assange's and Bradley Manning's own Inspector Javert.

    Holder's appointments and retentions of hacks and stooges and corrupt officials at the DOJ reminds one of Bush's bizarre appointment of Brad Scholzman. There is no way that any justification can be found for the appointment of Stacia Hylton at the USMS, or keeping Harley Lappin on the job at the DOJ until his drinking propelled his resignation.

    I am terribly disappointed that Holder has not tendered his resignation, along with much of the cabinet. If anyone should go, it is he.

  • Avon

    Swartz took too much of a free thing.
    And he did it through a free channel of which he was not an entitled member.

    Naughty, sure. Well-intentioned, certainly. A victimless act, perhaps.
    Death? Very, very sad.

    Outcome: The prosecutor is in the very same position as Swartz: thinking he was doing the right thing, yet ending up running afoul of more broadly acceptable limits - and paying a very public and very unfortunate price for it.

  • James Li

    The article fails to note that this is the second alleged-hacker suicide connected with prosecutor Stephen Heymann.


  • diverjm

    Civil disobediance carries the possbitiy of incarceration. He should have been ready to serve the 6 months for the cause he professed to believe in. The suicide is probably linked to his own mental illness,not the proscutor's aggressive stance in the case.

  • Barry60x

    It is heartwarming to finally see attention focused on the sociopathy of federal prosecutors. In their infantile,Manichean view of the world, people either wear white hats or black hats. Once the determination is made that you're a "black hat," the specifics of the offense charged are of no moment. Being a "baddin," you must have done something, so whether or not you are guilty of the instant matter is less than incidental.

    This pernicious pathology must be rooted out and eradicated. Rewarding federal prosecutors with moves up the judicial corporate ladder or into elected office simply encourages more of the same. Generally speaking, these people pose a greater threat to the populace than those they are supposedly protecting us from.

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