Eric Holder defends prosecution of Aaron Swartz

d9c6rtr3cenn Eric Holder defends prosecution of Aaron Swartz

Reporting to the Senate Judiciary Committee for an oversighthearing Wednesday morning, Mr. Holder said Swartz’s January suicidewas “a tragedy” but that the Justice Department acted appropriatelythroughout the prosecution.The Obama administration pursuit of Swartz, said Holder,demonstrated “a good use ofprosecutorial discretion.”Swartz, 26, took his own life earlier this year months before hewas expected to stand trial in a controversial federal case thatcarried a potential 35 year sentence if a conviction wasreturned.Holder touched briefly on the hacktivist after Sen. John Cornyn(R-Texas) asked him on Wednesday to address allegations that theJustice Department harassed Swartz in order to have him plea tolesser offenses. The Obama administration has been accused of“trying to bully someone into pleading guilty to something,”Sen. Cornyn said, a claim to which the country’s top attorneyrefuted.According to Holder, Swartz was presented with an option thatwould have left him escaping heavy sentencing in lieu of much morelenient punishment. Had Swartz accepted an offer from the JusticeDepartment, Holder says he could have been sentenced to serve forno longer than a few months. The Justice Department never intendedfor Swartz to go to jail “for longer than a three, four,potentially five-month range,” Holder said.Asked by Cornyn if he thought the Massachusetts districtattorney demonstrated prosecutorial overreach or misconduct in theSwartz case, Holder said, “I don’t look at what necessarily wascharged as much as what was offered in terms of how the case mighthave been resolved.”Prosecutors say Swartz entered a utility closet at theMassachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009 and attempted todownload millions of academic articles hosted on the website JSTOR.He was charged with gaining unauthorized access to a protecteddevice under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act andFollowing the activist’s death, Massachusetts US Attorney CarmenOrtiz was accused of acting overzealously in prosecutingSwartz for merely accessing scholarly articles. She responded bysaying that her office’s conduct was appropriate in handling thecase.“As federal prosecutors, our mission includes protecting theuse of computers and the Internet by enforcing the law as fairlyand responsibly as possible. We strive to do our best to fulfillthis mission every day,” she wrote. “The career prosecutorshandling this matter took on the difficult task of enforcing a lawthey had taken an oath to uphold, and did so reasonably.”One month after Swartz passed away, the Huffington Post ran areport in which they claimed congressional staffers were told by theJustice Department that the activist’s “Guerilla Open AccessManifesto” played a role in the prosecution. Swartz had co-authoredthe document and had posted it on his personal blog.“I really need to know and Aaron’s family needs to know whomade the decisions here. Who decided to prosecute him like this andwhy,” Swartz’s partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told RT.“The testimony of these Justice Department officials to Congresspoints to the direction of this being a political prosecutionbecause of his views on copyright and his views on politicalfreedom.”Swartz co-founded the website Reddit and also started theadvocacy group Demand Progress, an organization that wasinstrumental in garnering opposition against the Stop Online PiracyAct, or SOPA, in 2012.

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Eric Holder defends prosecution of Aaron Swartz

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