Much of the discussion following the death of Aaron Swartz relates to the issue of disproportionate prosecution.
Legal heavyweights and online activists discuss whether Massachusetts prosecutors were pursuing him overzealously, and the nature of Swartz’s alleged crimes when he downloaded 4 million articles from JSTOR, an archive to which he had legitimate access. Swartz faced up to 35 years in jail for downloading the articles. The prosecutor responsible for the pursuit of Swartz, Carmen Ortiz, last week tried to wash her hands of responsibility for his death.
Whatever the legal and procedural merits of Ortiz’s pursuit of Swartz, aggressive over-prosecution is normally the fate of anyone deemed to be an online activist.
Bradley Manning faces life imprisonment for leaking evidence of US war crimes, should the US military ever cease regularly delaying his trial. Manning was even found by a US military judge to have been systematically mistreated while in custody.
Barrett Brown currently faces 45 years in prison for, inter alia, posting a URL and quoting a Fox News threat to kill Julian Assange in a tweet.
Hacker Jeremy Hammond faces life in prison for allegedly breaking into the emails of self-promoting “alternative CIA” Stratfor, a global intelligence company. Hammond’s case is in the hands of a judge who is married to one of the hack’s victims.
Then there’s the case of Julian Assange, who is either the victim of an international conspiracy to keep him permanently entangled in criminal prosecution, or who has a strange capacity to induce irrational and obsessive overreactions from governments.
The list goes on and on — there’s the over-the-top raid on Kim Dotcom in New Zealand, which turned out to be illegal, along with the spying on Dotcom by a New Zealand intelligence agency that is now the subject of an inquiry.
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