This week in overzealous prosecution

Tom Jackson
Jan 15, 2013


When Internet activist Aaron Swartz downloaded a big stack of academic articles that he wasn't entitled to, federal prosecutors in Boston decided to make an example of him. They filed a series of felony charges carrying a possible penalty of 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Prosecutors apparently were seeking publicity for their tough stance on "computer crime," but they're getting publicity they didn't bargain for. Swartz, who had suffered from depression, committed suicide rather than face prison time. The case has outraged Internet activists.
Computer crime experts have been debating whether Swartz actually committed any crimes. (The alleged victim, a database called JSTOR, didn't want to prosecute.) Law professor Orin Kerr has written a long blog post arguing that prosecutors followed the law, and I have no reason to doubt him.
What is missing in the Swartz case is a sense of proportion.
You can kill somebody and get less punishment. When I got up this morning, I read an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about a woman who killed a young man in a hit and run accident and then tried to conceal the evidence of her crime. She was sentenced to house arrest, except for the occasions when she gets to leave her home. No jail time.
But if you download some academic publications you aren't supposed to have, you face hard  time.  Prosecutors have not explained why they felt they had to make an example of Swartz. 
Here are some examples of people that Obama's Department of Justice decided NOT to make an example of:
-- Obama's uncle, who also has been in the country illegally. He reacted to his drunk driving arrest by saying he wanted to "call the White House."(The president's deportations of people he isn't related to set a record.)
-- The Black Panthers who harassed voters in Philadelphia during the 2008 election. Most of the charges were dismissed after Obama took office.
Activists have launched a petition drive to fire the federal prosecutor who handled the Swartz case.
UPDATE: My son emailed me and pointed out that all of the examples I gave above are people who are black.
Fair enough. Well, I don't know the ethnicity of the health care executives who paid kickbacks to doctors and didn't have to face criminal charges. 
UPDATE II: Glenn Greenwald has an excellent article about the Swartz case.



I've been reading about that. It amazes me at times who they go after. Seems they dove in very heavy after him, all guns blazing!

The lady that killed the 13 y.o. boy should have received a harsher punishment than she did.

Tom, do you think her age came into play? At 81, she would have been a burden on the State's medical expenses sitting in jail.

Phil Packer

He was Jewish.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Libel and defamation.


Why? Erie County (Ohio) prosecutor? The SR should do an exposé. Perhaps the SR is too afraid of the powers that be?


@ Mr. Jackson:

Not a lot of sympathy for Mr. Swartz and his out right property theft.

Let us remember that the U.S. govt. wants Julian Assange and that Bradley Manning remains incarcerated and that his case has not yet gone to trial.

Always good to know that under NDAA, that the govt. gets to decide the definition of a "terrorist."


"Outright property theft? Not really. This case is about hacking. The incompetents in Congress passed a law that's so broad and vague, you could be charged for guessing at a forgotten password to your own email account.

His downloading was an act of civil disobedience. It was about openness and a protest over the policies of the "victim," - (You'd think a libertarian would like that.) Many if not all of the files in question were free to download at the site. He had no personal use for the downloaded files and provided them to no one, so even if they weren't free, there was no economic harm. He had settled with them and they had agreed not to pursue charges.

So where's the hate coming from? Because he was Jewish? Because he had long hair?

It's possible his perscutors were interested only in enhancing their own careers. Or maybe they were bored - there are crazy amounts of anti-hacking homeland insecurity resources relative to the number of actual attacks and threats.

There's absolutely no reason to blame Obama for this, though. That's just silly. But predictable enough.


Factitious writes:

"It's possible his perscutors (sp) were interested only in enhancing their own careers."

Not in love with expansive and onerous bureaucratic centralized authority? I'm shocked!

So no big deal and no consequences if Mr. Swartz hacked into your computer system eh?

So you didn't care to address the legal and security issues surrounding Misters Assange & Manning?

NDAA & the Patriot Act? Just a couple slices in the fetid U.S. totalitarian pie.

Hum, gotta remember to buy more shares of "Cyberdyne Systems." Make some $ on all those security drones.


Welcome to the United States for Obama!!!


From Obamaland comes this:


I must apologize he is a democrat and googling his name lists multiple sources for Sen. Robert Menendez!!!!


who cares


@ Tom Jackson

You wouldn't happen to be a Republican would you?

Horace Mann

This article made pretty good sense until the Obama part.


Horace Mann writes:

"This article made pretty good sense until the Obama part."

Pres. Obama makes perfect sense. He's a kleptocrat like all collectivists.


I feel that Tom Jackson is a Libertarian. It shows.


From this article --> "Here are some examples of people that Obama's Department of Justice decided NOT to make an example of:"

Eric Holder,AG "Fast and Furious"
Jon Corzine, MFGlobal
Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs
Sen. Chris Dodd - Countrywide Mortgage
Rep. Barney Frank
Benghazi-Gate......To Be Determined

Horace Mann

There are dispropotional punishments throughout our laws. Some of the stupidest ones are penalties for weed in Texas. But this has absolutely nothing to do with Obama, and using this case to attack him makes this article look like a post from a right-wing blog site. It just distracts from the real issues.




Dear Horace, with all due respect, what color is the sky in your world? It's all about Barry Soetero!!!!


Or Tom Jackson - on a local level you can revel an open heart (individual opinion) and be censored/deleted. This is the world we do live in. Why imo most in authority aren't worthy of much respect.

Phil Packer

That guy needed a good therapist and a good lawyer.


It's not Obozo's fault, it's Bush,Koch's,Beck,Limbaugh,Cheney,and the military industrial complex's fault,right Horace?


@ Horace Mann:

It ain't the state laws that you should be concerned about.

Be more concerned with the burgeoning number of fed laws that no longer need “intent” (mens rea) in order to find you guilty of a crime.

Did you do it? Then you’re guilty! Fine and/or prison time thankyouverymuch.


Beware the local government and cliques that 'go after' others as well. If they don't like you or you expose the truth, they will try to discredit and/or destroy you. Been a victim, but still standing!


Great comment!!!


There seems to be government intent to stop people from exposing or even investigating truth. Cover ups are rampant, locally and otherwise. The powers that be are trying to pull the wool over your eyes and want you to just go along while they stab you in the back. It's only going to get worse and yes, federal 'laws' are being made to control and quash us in the event we revolt. Hide your guns.


Great comment!!!!


Why make this about President Obama? He has nothing to do with this tragedy. I guess some people are still smarting over the election. It's just sad that this young man took his life.


"federal prosecutors in Boston decided to make an example of him"


Get a clue.

How about FAST AND FURIOUS. How is that coming to light?


"Fast and Furious" was LAST year's bogus attempt to smear Obama. Try to keep up.