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US Attorney Chided Swartz On Day of Suicide

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the rest-in-peace dept.

Crime 656

theodp writes "The e-mail that Defendant Swartz's supplemental memorandum (pdf) cites as paramount to his fifth motion to suppress [evidence against him] is relevant, but not nearly as important as he tries to make it out to be,' quipped United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz (pdf) in a court filing made on the same day Aaron Swartz committed suicide. In the 1-7-2011 e-mail Ortiz refers to, which was not produced for Swartz until Dec. 14th — almost two years after his 1-6-2011 arrest — a Secret Service agent reported to the Assistant U.S. Attorney that he was 'prepared to take custody anytime' of Swartz's laptop, although no one had yet sought a warrant to search the computer. In Prosecutor as Bully, Larry Lessig laments, 'They [JSTOR] declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the "criminal" who we who loved him knew as Aaron.' Swartz's family also had harsh words for MIT and prosecutors: 'Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron.' With MIT President Emeritus Charles M. Vest currently serving as a Trustee of JSTOR parent Ithaka as well as a Trustee of The MIT Corporation, one might have expected MIT to issue a statement similar to the let's-put-this-behind-us one JSTOR made on the Swartz case back in 2011."

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Yawn (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574109)

Suicide can only be blamed on the person that did it.

Re:Yawn (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574171)

Fuck off asshole. If you are facing decades in prison and being forever named a felon, wouldn't you consider it?

These prosecutors need to pay for their crimes. They need to be fired, disbarred, and then thrown in jail.

Culprit #1: Stephen P. Heymann, the head of the Cybercrime Unit and lead prosecutor
Culprit #2: Carmen M. Ortiz, US Attorney (and Bostonian of the Year as Twitter tells me)

Sign the petitions:
[1] [whitehouse.gov]
[2] [whitehouse.gov]

Re:Yawn (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574179)

No I wouldn't. Plenty of people go to prison without killing themselves. Prison rosters prove that.

Now, name one by one the law that those two people broke and that they could be prosecuted/convicted for.

Re:Yawn (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574235)

They deceived the court that multiple felonies were committed. And their intimidation lead to suicide. There are a multitude of charges that can be filed. Find a prosecutor with the balls to charge another prosecutor, and these two will be in jail.

Re:Yawn (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574417)

Plenty of people go to prison without killing themselves. Prison rosters prove that.

Actually, plenty of people do kill themselves in prisons. Now fuck off.

Re:Yawn (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574347)

Uh, no. Strength of character. Asshole. When you're dead, you're gone. No more life, no more things you love. At least with life you have a *chance* at redemption.

Re:Yawn (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574361)

You're questioning his strength of character? He was charged because he wanted to liberate academic documents. He drew the ire of the Feds because he freely released court documents. He stood up against SOPA. And he helped launch Creative Commons. I'm pretty fucking sure he had a shitload of "strength of character".

Re:Yawn (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574369)

Ahh the victim complex at work.

Everyone in the west is a victim these days. No responsibilities for ones actions. Poor guy killed himself, not his fault at all. Poor me, government takes my money. Poor me, the government doesn't give me enough XYZ. Poor me, I have to compete to hold down a job.

And you wonder why the Koreans and soon the Chinese are eating your lunch.

Re:Yawn (4, Insightful)

mumblestheclown (569987) | about a year ago | (#42574379)

For what, AC? For what, exactly, should "the prosecutors ... be fired, disbarred, and then thrown in jail?" Please lay out a compelling case based on something other than your circumstantial reasoning, ad-hominem attacks, and naked assertion?

Also: as meaningless as petitions are, they'd be slightly less meaningless if you at least courageously offered those an ability to sign a petition in the opposite direction too. In fact, this should be a moral requirement for all those who ever make a petition.

Re:Yawn (1)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about a year ago | (#42574501)

>Also: as meaningless as petitions are, they'd be slightly less meaningless if you at least courageously offered those an ability to sign a petition in the opposite direction too. In fact, this should be a moral requirement for all those who ever make a petition.

That's one of the most sensible things I've ever read...am I still on /.?

Re:Yawn (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574583)

What do you want the reverse petition to say?

Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann should be nominated to Supreme Court ...

... for their brave prosecution of the Internet menace Aaron Swartz and their overly broad (some may say deceptive) interpretation of existing laws to stack up such an enormous sentence that the menace killed himself. By claiming that he had stolen millions of dollars worth of academic documents they were able to threaten the young man with 50 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines despite the fact that none of the organizations involved wanted to prosecute. They helped to protect US Copyright law and keep the possession of academic documents out of the hands of the public and researchers, and into the hands of publishers that had no part in the research. For their incredible bravery, and devotion to duty, we demand that they be given further power. God Bless America!

Will this work for you?

Re:Yawn (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#42574597)

Ditto what Rick Zeman said. There are thousands of petitions on the internet, and several sources of those petitions send me emails daily, asking me to sign petitions.

I often want to sign the stupid petitions as "opposed", or whatever.

Re:Yawn (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574553)

It appears that slashdot moderators subscribe to the idea that everyone is to blame when someone suicides.

GP is modded a troll, and the abusive AC is modded informative?

I don't subscribe to the idea that another person's suicide is my fault. Only in extremely rare, extremely abusive situations might that be true.

Life is harsh. The weak will opt out. The strong will go on fighting. Did I mention that life is harsh? It's not my duty to hold the weak up indefinitely. We all need to help out when we can, but a lifetime commitment to supporting the weak is out of the question.

I liked young Mr. Swartz, and I like what he did. He was unfairly targeted. But, ultimately, he wimped out. That's a damned shame, but my attitude toward suicides isn't going to change because Swartz was popular amongst geeks.

Re:Yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574579)

No I would look into killing the prosecutor and his family.

Re:Yawn (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#42574273)

Suicide can only be blamed on the person that did it.

I absolutely agree with you.

That doesn't preclude charging the prosecutors with a whole array of harassment and misconduct-related actions.

Unfortunately, the US has a serious problem wherein prosecutors have effectively infinite resources to harass someone; on top of which, we reward them for convictions, not for serving justice. On the flip side of that, public defenders lose money for every hour they spend on a case vs working at their "real" jobs; and since they don't generally do it as their primary job (more like an act of compulsory charity on the side), they have little incentive to care how they perform in that role. Thus, you have a supposedly-antagonistic system where both sides have strong incentive to push everyone brought up on charges to settle, regardless of guilt.

You want to fix the system? We need to have "prosecutor pays" for privately retained defense; and we need to ban settlements entirely.

Yes, that means every two-bit punk who shoplifts gets to hire Johnny Cochran. And yes, I realize how much the second point there would slow down the system - Or more accurately, it would mean nonviolent cases with no "real" damages, such as Swartz', would never have made it past a private student misconduct panel at MIT, and we'd have a brilliant but bored kid still alive.

Re:Yawn (4, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year ago | (#42574493)

I agree. if the full power of the gov is coming down on you, the gov SHOULD also pay for your legal fees, and good defense people, too.

else, it is purely and clearly bullying. legal bullying.

the way we win hearts and minds in the world is by example. the Rest Of World(tm) looks at us and is not convinced that they want to import anything AT ALL like american freedom and justice.

if we don't start fixing our broken-ways, we will never be taken seriously by the world. and yes, we have dropped in our high moral ground several notches over the last several decades.

does anyone in command CARE about how we look? never mind how we act, but at least give the impression of fairness!

Re:Yawn (-1, Troll)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#42574527)

In civilized countries, a defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty. It is at the charge of the prosecutor to prove that he is guilty.
It is my understand that it is not the case in the US, and that it is at the charge of the defendant to prove that he is innocent.

Re:Yawn (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574391)

Screw you. I'd rather not have my world polluted by insensitive assholes like you. Pleas kill yourself, so we don't have to.

terrorism (3, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year ago | (#42574123)

the US seems to have terrorized a youth into killing himself.

I'd seek gitmo for the US 'official' who performed this act of terrorism.

if we don't stop the american terrorists (gov hacks who can ruin lives at-will for essentially no good reason at all) then we all have BECOME part of them.

a message needs to be sent. TO THE GOVERNMENT. stop being asshats wrapped in the false flag of 'justice'.

Re:terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574145)

Yeah, cause all youths in the US are Aaron Swartz.

Re:terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574197)

I think you are confusing slashdot for infowars

Re:terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574281)

The first casualty of war is truth.

Re:terrorism (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574381)

You keep posting that. You probably feel very clever when you do so, which is amusing.

Re:terrorism (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574221)

Typical american. You'd fight to have Guantanamo closed and I'm sure you criticize him for keeping the place open -- yet when it comes to someone you don't like, you have no problem condemning them to torture, physical and otherwise. You're no better than the attorney himself.

If you want to stop something like this from happening again you need to take a good, long look in the mirror as a country. You're all guilty, guilty of negligence by putting these people into power and then sitting on your thumbs when they commit atrocities like this. Flail your arms and point fingers all you want but you are ALL TO BLAME.

Re:terrorism (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year ago | (#42574477)

You know what the defense will say?
Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

Or something similar.

Re:terrorism (4, Insightful)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#42574491)

the US seems to have terrorized a youth into killing himself.

I've highlighted the operative word. While it's reasonable to assume that they probably didn't help (to put it extremely mildly), even those closest to him will spend years agonizing over what exactly was going through his mind and what, if anything, they could have done to prevent this. Why does everyone else seem to think they've got to the bottom of it in five minutes?

Re:terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574575)

But you are forgetting one important thing here: to know the enemy, you must become the enemy.

The US were just acting out that part since the war on terrorism. It is elementary my dear TheGratefulNet.

Catalyst (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#42574133)

If anything good comes of this situation it would be nice if Swartz were to become the Mohamed Bouazizi [wikipedia.org] of prosecutorial reform in the US. Unlikely, but one can hope.

Re:Catalyst (1, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#42574159)

Kinda unlikely. I neither have enough faith in the US population to be willing to fight for their freedom, nor enough faith in the US government to be reasonable enough to notice when they should go.

This ain't Tunesia, ya know...

Re:Catalyst (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574173)

Within a month the US population might remember his name or the situation he's in, but won't be able to put the two together. Thank 24 hour "news" for that.

Shame on MIT (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574151)

It used to be the home of the hacker culture.

So now (2, Insightful)

fafaforza (248976) | about a year ago | (#42574161)

we'll criticize people that had no personal tie to a person for not recognizing their true mental state? How many immediate family members do not recognize a suicidal condition in someone? But we expect a lawyer to see it?

Re:So now (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574209)

we'll criticize people that had no personal tie to a person for not recognizing their true mental state? How many immediate family members do not recognize a suicidal condition in someone? But we expect a lawyer to see it?

Who or what are you talking about?

Maybe you would be suicidal too if facing 35 years for downloading scientific articles, when the people you downloaded them from don't want to proceed but the justice department says "too bad".
That's the point the poster is making, isn't it? It doesn't matter who it is, being on the receiving end of a witch hunt is enough to ruin anyone's life.

35 years in prison for downloading scientific articles. Really? What a great country he and I share, where we give those convicted of murder softer sentences than we do for some "copyright infringers".

Re:So now (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574297)

35 years in prison for downloading scientific articles

Yea I typically hide laptops in the ceiling jacked into the network to download articles myself. Nothing questionable about that at all.

The guy was doing it to take a stand, it was heroic. But he knew what he was getting himself in to, he was an adult.

Re:So now (5, Insightful)

bmacs27 (1314285) | about a year ago | (#42574323)

Yea, and infringing on copyrighted material generated with public money! The nerve of this guy!

Re:So now (if he were a bank, he would walk free) (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574415)

If he were a bank, like HSBC and also too big to jail, he would get away with 1/4 of his yearly profits as HSBC got away for laundry money for the drug cartels.

Fucked up system.

Stop the bullshit (4, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about a year ago | (#42574473)

35 years was the maximum he could be sentenced to, that doesn't mean he was going to get it.

That case also started 2 years ago and the case hadn't undergone any startling twists that explain a suicide. Yes, after arrest I can understand, after a search I can understand, after being found guilty I can understand, after sentencing I can understand, in jail I can understand.

But in the investigation period when the lawyers are duking it out over admissible evidence? Either it had to be a slow deterioration in his mental state, which his family should have noted OR something else happened. That linked letter from the prosecutor is to trivial to kill yourself over unless you been slowly going over the edge in any case.

The guy went against the law as a form of protest, he knew that what he was doing was illegal and wanted that to change. And his treatment was legal letters. SCARY! A while ago, I called a scumbag to account himself for claiming the womens right to vote was achieved without violence by linking to just one of the countless incidents of women being arrested and tortured in jail. And these women endured. This guy offed himself over an email?

Then either he was always a unstable person OR he is a crybaby who wanted to look cool by protesting and then pissed himself when "The man" came down on him OR something else is going on entirely.

I think he had a cause, I think he could have expected that it would land him court and I don't think a person like that panics over a letter in a legal case that is/was far from concluded. That kind of person does NOT kill himself over a letter from a prosecutor. Read the letter, it is a trivial non-issue in the run up to a court case, it isn't a smoking gun, it isn't saying "we got you and you are going to federal pound in the ass jail sonny boy". It is almost saying "your lawyer got a good point but obviously I am not going to say it like that but you won this round". Chiding? Hardly.

Now I don't know him at all, don't know his personality (the real one, not the media one) but I think something more is going on. Either the pressure on him was far greater then we know, he was killed or his he had other mental issues already.

It is NOT the job of the prosecutor to weigh every communication on a silver platter to see if it might push someone over the edge. It is the job of family and the person himself to recognize mental issues and seek help. Something is missing here, normal people even under stress of an investigation do NOT off themselves over the linked letter. I would examine if there are other causes for an unstable mental condition that could have been triggered by anything, something as "trivial" as taking the Christmas decorations down.

We like when something tragic happens, to blame someone. It can be something as stupid as a cat not wanting to be petted that day that pushes people over the edge. That his family is so quickly ready to put the blame on others is to me a red flag. How hard did his family push him to succeed? Most boys at 14 worry about girls (how icky they are and how you can stop them thinking you are icky) this guy was designing RSS. Many a wonder kid has far from a happy youth. Who pushed this guy the hardest? The prosecutor or his family and friends who wanted him to achieve time and time again? Far more kids commit suicide because of pushy parents who are never satisfied then over long running legal cases that so far have NOT gone against him (as far as I know I freely admit, please feel free to put me right and show links to articles were it was becoming clear that he was going to loose this case). How hard was Lessig pushing yet again for someone ELSE to fight HIS fight for him with Lessig not being the one facing jail?

I think this case is going to stir up a real nasty mess with pushy parents and people expecting Swartz to fight everyone elses battle but him alone the one facing jail.

Re:So now (3, Informative)

arcade (16638) | about a year ago | (#42574223)

No, we expect prosecutors not to be utter shitbags. This one Carmen M Ortiz is obviously a psychopath that should never ever serve in a public office.

She needs to hear that she's nothing but a mean, horrible subhuman.

Re:So now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574395)

From a purely hypothetical perspective, what if someone organized some kind of response / retaliation against this prosecutor or the supporting system / politicians for this? What form would likely best send the right message? I'm not thinking of any specific form of retaliation, just wondering what form would likely be effective. Obviously, killing the prosecutor produces the opposite effect (in addition to being illegal).

Already happening (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574433)

From a purely hypothetical perspective, what if someone organized some kind of response / retaliation against this prosecutor or the supporting system / politicians for this? What form would likely best send the right message? I'm not thinking of any specific form of retaliation, just wondering what form would likely be effective. Obviously, killing the prosecutor produces the opposite effect (in addition to being illegal).

It's already happening:
see here [whitehouse.gov].

Re:So now (5, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42574439)

No, we expect prosecutors not to be utter shitbags.

But we do expect them to be shitbags. We reward prosecutors based on conviction rates, rather than just outcomes. Prosecutors are especially rewarded for winning "tough cases" (ie, cases where the defendant is likely to have been innocent).

This one Carmen M Ortiz is obviously a psychopath that should never ever serve in a public office.

Stop blaming an individual, when the real problem is the adversarial system.

Systems like this have been fixed before. In the 1970s and 1980s police were evaluated by their arrest rate. So the police were "successful" as arrest rates climbed as crime rates soared. In the 1990s we switched to evaluating the police on overall crime rates, and gave them an incentive to proactively discourage crime rather than just react to it. The result has been lower crime rates, and especially lower violent crime rates.

Now it is time to do the something similar for prosecutors.

Re:So now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574293)

We criticize them for perverting the justice system.

30 years for a victimless crime. Unconscionable.

Re:So now (4, Insightful)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | about a year ago | (#42574405)

How many immediate family members do not recognize a suicidal condition in someone? But we expect a lawyer to see it?

First, lots of people knew about Swartz' depression, especially his family. Secondly, the US attorney's office is being criticized for not seeking justice, but for seeking unusually harsh punishment. Swartz was afraid of being sentenced to 30 years in prison. You don't think 30 years is excessive?

Re:So now (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574521)

we'll criticize people that had no personal tie to a person for not recognizing their true mental state? How many immediate family members do not recognize a suicidal condition in someone? But we expect a lawyer to see it?

Look, stupid: Harassing, intimidating, bullying Aaron Swartz, and destroying his life... that was the injustice system doing it, not the family members.

The world would've been much better off today with Aaron Swartz alive, instead of you and/or the prosecutors, who are squandering resources on bullying rather than going after real criminals, like themselves or the fuckers who've fucked up this country.

Psychopaths (5, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#42574175)

These people seem to be soulless automatons devoid of any compassion and quite willing to destroy a life without good reason just so they can advance their own careers a bit. This behavior is the hallmark of dangerous psychopaths. People like that belong into a closed mental institutions, not into positions of power.

Different circumstance, same outcome (4, Informative)

pkbarbiedoll (851110) | about a year ago | (#42574287)

The group of psychopaths also known as the Roswell City Council pushed Andrew Wordes (also known as the Roswell Chicken Man) to take his life in March 2012 [patch.com].

Re:Psychopaths (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574437)

You give them too much credit. The word psychopath is getting thrown around too much. They're just greedy, arrogant little prick assholes.

Re:Psychopaths (2)

bytesex (112972) | about a year ago | (#42574551)

Not psychopaths. Fused with their jobs + lack of empathy. Just like IT-people can sometimes have a problem imagining that there are other people who do not know, understand, or even like, IT, these people cannot empathize with other people that are not lawyers, or bureaucrats. They think that they have the most wonderful job in the world and imagine that everyone else wants to have it too. And therefore, do not mind dealing with the lawsuits and the paperwork. Those are fun challenges!

US Attorneys are often sadistic power hungry scum. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574183)

Think about it.

Who would WANT to have a job which essentially consisted of doing
your level best to RUIN someone else's life ?

These characters specialize in fucking with people. They taunt you with
threats of absurdly long sentences, and they always ask the judge to deny bail.
They are seriously sick people. They abuse power and hide behind the
protection of the government which really only wants to screw the common
man and protect those who are privileged.

Anyone who still respects the US government and its "rule of law" is a stupid naive

Re:US Attorneys are often sadistic power hungry sc (3, Insightful)

Slyfox696 (2432554) | about a year ago | (#42574217)

Someone who sees it as not only as a steady job with decent benefits, but also someone who wants to remove the vast amounts of scum from walking the street? The scum such as those who rape and murder?

Re:US Attorneys are often sadistic power hungry sc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574279)

US Attorneys are FEDERAL.

They rarely deal with rape or murder cases, which are most often
disposed of in state court.

US Attorneys far more often do the bidding of their Federal Government
masters with respect to making sure the public is kept in a state of fear.

So you really have no idea what you are talking about. It is regrettable
that idiots like YOU don't commit suicide, the world would absolutely be
better off without you.


Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574187)

A lawyer filed court documents attacking his opponent's case! How do we get from that to blaming the attorney for the defendant's suicide?

Re:US ATTORNEY DOES HIS JOB (5, Informative)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#42574259)

Because the whole case was a sham put forth by the US AGO. Even JSTOR, the "offended" party, didn't want to pursue the matter. It was the US government that butchered this man with their brutal legal system and relentless pursuit of him. Make no mistake about that.

The pursuit was even more vicious and determined than that of the MPAA and RIAA with their letters and lawsuits over copyright violations.


TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year ago | (#42574371)

"people with boots love to step on your throat."

(film at 11)

we should have an ammendment. yes, a full ammendment. any government, police or position of power that is caught overly abusing it gets sent to the Bad Places(tm) that we send our own bad guys for, uhm, rendition. that's the word they use, right? so put the fear of torture in the legal system.

we surely DO torture our own people in military prisons and such. the manning case is an example.

we have an AG who is running around on the loose, ruining lives and not caring. that's deserving of torture, to me. I really do think so. when you have SO much power that you can ruin lives at the drop of a hat - AND you engage in such - you deserve no mercy and in fact, an example should be made to stop the next sue-happy lawyer who represents the government and tries to make a career statement for themselves.

there is no balance here. the AG assholes can get away with this crime against humanity and no one stops them.

physical pain, overseas, would stop that shit RIGHT QUICK.

things have gotton bad. when our 'trusted leaders' run bad, they need to be STRONGLY punished. I do mean strongly, too.

Who? (5, Informative)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#42574195)

Swartz was an American computer programmer, writer, archivist, political organizer, and Internet activist. Swartz co-authored the "RSS 1.0" specification of RSS, and built the Web site framework web.py and the architecture for the Open Library. He also built Infogami, a company that merged with Reddit in its early days, through which he became an equal owner of the merged company.

On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested in connection with systematic downloading of academic journal articles from JSTOR, which became the subject of a federal investigation.[2][3] JSTOR offended Swartz mainly for two reasons: it charged large fees for access to these articles but did not compensate the authors and it ensured that huge numbers of people are denied access to the scholarship produced by America's colleges and universities.[4][5] On January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn, apartment, where he had hanged himself.
  - Wikipedia

Re:Who? (4, Insightful)

Necroman (61604) | about a year ago | (#42574339)

As a reader of Hacker News [ycombinator.com] I'm getting a bit sick of this coverage myself. Last night, 9 of the 10 top stories were in relation to Aaron and the whole situation. The guy did some great work, but he never even got into a courtroom to see how things would play out. The other thing to note is that it was known even publicly that he suffered from depression [aaronsw.com]. A high-stress situation plus depression is the recipe for this type of situation.

I'm not say either side (the people making him into a martyr or prosecutor for going after him) is right or wrong with what they are doing. But to me, the reaction I've been seeing so far from those on sites like Hacker News seems to be a little far out there.

Pirate??? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#42574201)

So he pirated a few documents and distributed them? Why did this end in his death?

Re:Pirate??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574233)

So he pirated a few documents and distributed them? Why did this end in his death?

Wrong. He pirated a few documents with the intent to distribute them.

Wrong Again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574459)

Copyright infringement is not an act of piracy. If you want to read about piracy look here:


The articles in question probably should have been in the public domain in the first place as the research in question is done mostly by public universities supported by public funds. We will never know for sure because there was no trial, but the unwillingness of JSTOR to proscecute indicates that they probably don't want the question put before a court. IANAL

Wrong again? (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about a year ago | (#42574483)

He obtained copies of the documents through automated means, but there has been no proof that he intended to distribute them (although that's what prosecutors claimed).

It's possible that he was planning on doing content analysis of the documents, for which he might've needed a sufficiently large corpus to do the analysis. (and if seems that JSTOR allows that sort of thing, but it wasn't well known, which my understanding was part of the reason they asked the case to be dropped; see http://about.jstor.org/news/jstor-statement-misuse-incident-and-criminal-case [jstor.org] )

Yes, he did release the PACER documents -- but those were government files that should've been in the public domain; I view him to be like Carl Malamud in that regard : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Malamud [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Pirate??? (4, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year ago | (#42574335)

The Man(tm) wanted to put him away for virtually his whole life.

yes, at that age, x+35 IS your whole life.

I bet a lot of people would off themselves if faced and what is, effectively, the end of their lifes and the absolute end of their freedom.

NH says 'live free or die!'. I think living free is so important, maybe NH has a point, there.

The unusual response over at Hacker News. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574215)

While this is a very sad story, the response over at Hacker News has been, to put it mildly, quite absurd.

For much of yesterday, each and every submission on the front page (and maybe the others; I didn't check) had to do with this incident. That's at least 30 out of the top 30 links being dedicated solely to one issue.

It gets worse, though. Many of the links were to blog articles or mailing list postings from people who openly admitted to having never met him, and otherwise never interacted with him directly. One particularly odd blog article was about some guy who "knew" Swartz through some open source code that Swartz had released. If I recall correctly, this blog post even referred to Swartz as the author's "soulmate", although they had never interacted. It was quite surreal to read.

While I can understand even 5 or even 6 submissions relating to this incident, the single-minded focus of almost the entire Hacker News community on this matter is not healthy. It doesn't seem to be letting up, either. It's almost the same situation today, with 29 of the 30 submissions focusing on this.

It really makes me think that much of this "emotion" is not genuine in any way. It's just another form of group-think, with a bunch of people who never knew Swartz in any way trying to out-do one another with greater and greater displays of "sympathy". In that sense, it's quite disgusting, and I hope that the members of that community who participated in this petty game at least feel some shame for what they have done.

Re:The unusual response over at Hacker News. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574569)

In that sense, it's quite disgusting, and I hope that the members of that community who participated in this petty game at least feel some shame for what they have done.

Are you sure that is, indeed, "that sense"? What makes you think you are the "perfect detector of that sense" to such a high degree to authoritatively say "it's disgusting" and "they should at least feel ashamed" for... what?... showing sympathy?

JSTOR offers condolences (4, Informative)

fantomas (94850) | about a year ago | (#42574229)

Re:JSTOR offers condolences (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#42574267)

I was certainly interested to know that JSTOR was charged with restricting access by the creators of the works. Obviously this is some special definition of the word "creators" I was previously unaware of.

To Recap (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574237)

Mentally disturbed individual who early on life exhibited a high degree of intelligence pushed the boundaries of the law, possibly(probably) breaking the law. Prosecutors assert that the law was indeed broken and were preparing to prosecute for said same transgressions.

Individual demonstrates a clear case of mental illness by committing suicide. Gay lover and family imply blame on everyone else but Swartz and mental illness. Slashdotters, with a disproportionately high number of homosexual members, typically desperate for conspiracy want to view it as unjust persecution against gays as well as government conspiracy.

Poorly written and nearly incoherent article, clearly written by overwrought and gay partisan of Swartz feeds Slashdot's appetite for rage against "injustice". This article likely just a precursor to several more that will elevate Swartz to cult hero status as a genius prodigy unjustly persecuted and finally killed by The Man.


Re:To Recap (2)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#42574481)

From what very little I gleaned of this episode,the young man would have needed $1,000,000 to mount his defense, I have read. He believed that information paid for by tax dollars should be free, not costing 10 cents a page or whatever to download. He felt the weight of the world on his shoulders, and mistakenly believed that suicide was his best option. A very sad case indeed.

Sucide is never the answer to lifes problems. Never! Never give up! There's always hope that around the corner is a better tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then one day afterward, but do not give up, ever.

My sympathies go out to this young mans family and friends.

Re:To Recap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574495)


Highly intellgent young adult is persecuted for the crime of downloading scientific articles from an unsecured source, which by any ethical standard shouldn't be restricted in the first place. 35+ year prison sentence is sought. The 'victim' (JSTOR) itself does NOT want to proceeed, but somehow the government think it has the right to persecute anyhow.

So basically a victimless crime that shouldn't be a crime in the first place would end up putting an intellgent and politically active person behind bars for the rest of his life, effectively robbing him of it and removing access to do what he wanted with it.

The persecution and its witch hunt to ruin, rob, and smear the life of an innocent young man lead directly to the ending of his otherwise bright and productive life. If anything that is tantamount to outright murder, even if they weren't the ones to physically hang him. This is why it is getting the reaction it is: it is an extreme example of how the government injustice system works on the federal scale.

stopbullying.gov * (2, Insightful)

pkbarbiedoll (851110) | about a year ago | (#42574253)

* the government reserves the right to engage in bullying any time it wishes, for any reason. In this case parents are encouraged to teach their children that bystanding is appropriate and expected.

Petition to remove the DA (5, Informative)

Yarhj (1305397) | about a year ago | (#42574263)

A lot of people are outraged over the prosecutorial overreach in this case (and, by extension, the tradition of prosecutorial overreach in most cases prosecuted by the federal government), and a petition has popped up to remove the DA in charge of this case: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-states-district-attorney-carmen-ortiz-office-overreach-case-aaron-swartz/RQNrG1Ck [whitehouse.gov]

It's a start, though what I'd really like to see is some proper judicial reform, so we can bring some sanity to the judicial system.

Links to the Ars coverage of this story:
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/01/internet-pioneer-and-information-activist-takes-his-own-life/ [arstechnica.com]
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/01/family-blames-us-attorneys-for-death-of-aaron-swartz/ [arstechnica.com]

Re:Petition to remove the DA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574407)

It's a shame but there's a mistake in the petition.

The first sentence reads

It is too late to do anything for Aaron Swartz, but the who used the powers granted to them by their office to hound him into a position where he was facing a ruinous trial, life in prison and the ignominy and shame of being a convicted felon; for an alleged crime that the supposed victims did not wish to prosecute."

I wonder if the original poster of that can fix it up.

Re:Petition to remove the DA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574457)

Mod parent up! More people should know about this petition.

So what if somebody from JSTOR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574275)

Committed suicide because of Swartz chiding of their policies. Would that automatically make Swartz the bad guy?

Re:So what if somebody from JSTOR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574363)

In the real scenario, Swartz killed a man. Doesn't get much worse than that.

Re:So what if somebody from JSTOR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574513)

1) JSTOR did _not_ want Swartz behind bars. The government did.

2) "Chiding policies" != "effectively ending his life by means of 35+ year prison sentence"

In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574277)

The government bullied him into committing suicide.

I thought we were passing all kinds of laws against bullying for this very reason. And, haven't people been convicted of homicide for bullying people into committing suicide?

Where are the charges against this reckless, discompassionate DA?

Blaming others increases suicide. (1)

hessian (467078) | about a year ago | (#42574303)

People often commit suicide out of a sense of revenge on the world.

If we blame the government for Aaron's actions, this encourages more people to commit suicide, so that whoever is antagonizing them gets blamed.

The best logic if we want to stop suicides is to frame it as what it always is: an individual choice. This allows us to emphasize the consequences of that choice on the individual and immediate family, discouraging that individual.

It's sort of an unwritten rule that the people who should kill themselves do not kill themselves, while the people who should not seem to succeed at an alarming rate.

Re:Blaming others increases suicide. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574555)

The suicide was his individual choice to avoid being robbed of his life by being imprisoned for 35 years at his young age.

When it is pretty clear that the 35 year prison sentence was nothing more than a frothing witch hunt for which the alleged victim didn't even want to participate, it stands to reason that the 'individual choice' was forced on him unfairly. The situation that lead to it was unjust in the extreme, and therefore tantamount to having killed him directly. There was no real individual choice.

Sure, if an actual felon who had done something to justify a 35 year prison sentence commited suicide it would be sad but not really the fault of the persecution. However this isn't the case.

Just taking orders (4, Insightful)

LordThyGod (1465887) | about a year ago | (#42574307)

It's not so much the prosecutors fault, as it is a system that over zealously values intellectual property, so that the prosperous can be even more prosperous. We, as a society, have lost our bearings. Things are out of whack. I read today an article in the nytimes about sex trafficking, and how border guards in Pakistan, are on the alert for terrorists and pirated DVDs, yet ignore blatant evidence of young girls being sold into slavery. The reasoning? They want to please the Americans whose priorities are terrorism and piracy. We are broken.

Massachusetts Institute of Terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574315)

Get your T-shirts right here!

The Aaron Swartz Act (5, Interesting)

decora (1710862) | about a year ago | (#42574329)

1. To reform the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 to rationalize it with the 21st century by the following measure

A. Repeal any and all language from the CFAA that originated in the Espionage Act of 1918 or its amended forms such as the McCarran Internal Security Act or the Subversive Activities Control Act of the 1950s.

B. Alter the definition of "Protected Computer" so that the act only covers Federal Government and Financial computer systems, and no others.

C. Remove any and all language that creates a crime simply because a computer is involved in an activity, where otherwise the activity would not be considered a crime.

D. Specifically state that the Interstate Commerce Clause does not apply to the Act. Almost all modern communications are 1. done on a computer, and 2. interstate in nature. Whereas it is against the spirit of the Founding Fathers to have the Federal Goverment control every single communication in a Free country, this act should be adopted by the congress and signed by the President.

Re:The Aaron Swartz Act (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574607)

B. Alter the definition of "Protected Computer" so that the act only covers Federal Government and Financial computer systems, and no others.

No. Protected Computers should be anything secured. But for a Civilian computer it needs to fall under a digital trespassing/invasion law.

Lessing ended his comment with SHAME. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574343)

And that is something to try - shame.

Right now, the people on the DA's side are not effected one bit by this.

Imagine a world instead where the firms they go to work for in the future have boycotts. Or if they opt to run for office - anyone or any firm that donates to them suffers a boycott.

With smartphones arming people with the information to effect such an effort is possible.

Interesting and exposing comments but we know... (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year ago | (#42574423)

There are serious problems with the corruption of government using media (including hollywood and MSM) to create a feedback loop and excuse to manipulate and lie to the people.

We all know this and we also know the unreasonable pressure of the media and government to punish those who violate copyright are very excessive in punishment efforts.

The fiscal cliff fiasco sorta save after the deadline (they fail to follow their own rules) includes kickback to Hollywood.... does anyone need to ask why?. .

It's sad, but "accused criminal" still appropriate (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574429)

He allegedly broke into MIT's network to violate the terms of access for JSTOR, circumvented attempts to stop him from doing so, and then said he was preparing to release what he downloaded. It's an accusation that was unproven in court, but *IF* true, then he was a criminal. Yes, it was a principled protest deserving of some respect -- he obviously had reasons for doing so other than personal benefit -- but the fact that he killed himself does not negate the fact that there were legitimate grounds for him being charged with some kind of crime. Even Lessig conditionally acknowledges this (i.e. also with a big "IF true"). While deep sympathy for his situation is deserved, before or after his suicide, if he had mental health problems potentially driving him to suicide those should have been brought to the attention of the prosecutors and perhaps he could have gotten the help he needed. If they weren't aware, then the prosecutors were doing the job they were tasked to do. Bullies? Yes. That's sometimes the perception of their job in the legal sense.

It's a terrible tragedy, but I can't get beyond this feeling in my gut that what he did -- if true -- was still wrong, and there should have been some kind of legal repercussions. 30 years? No, that's utterly ridiculous. But the police and prosecutors were probably applying pressure in the hopes of getting a guilty plea to a lesser charge as the most reasonable way out. It's normal to be as comprehensive as possible with charges. According to Lessig, one of the hang-ups in negotiations was the potential label "felon". That's a big word with serious implications that last for years if convicted, but it also isn't the end of the world. If prosecutors didn't have an idea that Swartz would be pushed to suicide as an alternative to the costly and slowly-grinding wheels of the legal system, how could they know this would be the outcome of such pressure?

I'm sorry if this says things people don't want to hear, but I still think what Swartz allegedly did was wrong, even if I think the level of punishment being proposed was ridiculous. The trial would have been a horrible experience for anyone, but I just can't understand why he chose this way out of the situation. It's very sad. And now we'll never hear his formal defense.

Quip? (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#42574515)

but not nearly as important as he tries to make it out to be,' quipped United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz

Quipped? Chided? These words do not mean what you seem to think they mean.

Parents should teach kids about adult-world bulies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574533)

I can understand how Swartz could have fallen so deep into depression. He was never prepared for this and never wanted his life to play out the way it did. Nobody wants to spend what was supposed to be the best years of their lives dodging a bully government set on ruining their lives. The kid probably has been unable to get laid in years because of all this.

Unfortunately, to a young guy like Swartz who is still learning a few things about the real world that they don't teach you in school, the government we have today is effectively full of spoiled self-rightous brats who will do whatever it takes to get their way no matter how long it takes. You have to treat them the way you'd treat any other bully: humanize them, outnumber them, be kind to them, and ignore them. Make sure they understand that you're going to go on living your life and just avoid their retarded behavior and not let it bother you or get you feeling down and depressed in the slightest way. This is important because the more you squirm and show how how it makes you upset, the happier they are. Bullies get their joy from watching weaker people suffer, so you have to be patient and let time go by so that they'll eventually get tired of waiting for something to happen and they'll go find someone else to pester.

It's like Alan Turing all over again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574547)


I don't know what to make of this (1)

terec (2797475) | about a year ago | (#42574559)

I think to the prosecutors and many outsiders, this looked more like a case of a well-known and respected online activist challenging existing law and copyright holders, the prosecutor and the copyright holders accepting the challenge, and both sides wanting to see it through to the end to set a precedent. It just seems odd to hear now that Aaron would have wanted a quick and quiet settlement.

What was the point of Aaron's copying of those journal articles then in the first place? It's not like JSTOR is a greedy academic publisher, it's a not-for-profit that has been trying to make academic content available more cheaply and probably has been walking a tightrope between cheap access and dealing with unpleasant and greedy copyright holders.

such BS (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42574595)

1. Swartz wasn't facing 30+ years unless he already had a bunch of prior violent felony convictions. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, he was facing maybe 6-24 months if he was convicted of everything.

2. It was a victimless crime if you don't count anyone that works/studies at MIT, works at JSTOR, or uses JSTOR anywhere in the world. The entire campus was cut off as JSTOR/MIT scrambled to stop Swartz, who repeatedly attempted to circumvent the blocks put up by JSTOR/MIT over a period of weeks. Reports from JSTOR indicated that Swartz activities were causing servers to crash and were impacting other users. JSTOR backed down because of bad publicity, not because Swartz caused no harm.

3. Trespassing, breaking and entering, unauthorized use of a computer system, and denial-of-service attacks are all crimes. Prosecutors don't need support of every victim or even any victim to pursue a case because they represent the People who have an interest in stopping such activities. Every day, wife beaters are convicted despite the protests of their spouses. You would think a law professor would know this kind of stuff but Lessig, by all appearances, is not much of a lawyer just a supreme bullshitter.

4. Swartz had a lot of time to realize that he should probably stop his activities because the admins were on to him and trying to stop him but instead he escalated his crimes.

5. Harvard must be incredibly embarassed to have brought this guy on as a Fellow in their Center for Ethics.

6. There should an award in memory of Swartz for the person who's own actions cock up the greatest streak of good fortune. Maybe he didn't screw up as bad as OJ Simpson but you can't have a memorial award in the name of someone who isn't dead.

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