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Murder in the SunMorgue
by Denis O'Brien, PhD

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Crime, Courts, and the Constitution

#543
Jan15.2013

Aaron Swartz: Some Pretty Heavy Stuff

            
Photo of Aaron Swartz breaking into MIT computer room, according to government documents.

It is not that unusual for a perp to try and blame his victim for the damage the victim suffered at the hands of the perp. But it is a whole new twist when the victim is blamed for the perp’s own demise, particularly when the perp dies from suicide. Every since Aaron Swartz was found hanging in his apartment, his family have been all over the press blaming the prosecutors and the victims of Swartz’s alleged felonies – MIT and a data sharing organization called JSTOR. The rising chorus of righteous indignation for having prosecuted Aaron Swartz reached a crescendo – I hope – yesterday when Swartz’s father declared at the funeral that "The government killed my son." Pretty heavy stuff.

Swartz’s partner Taren Stinebricker-Kaufmann had previously called Swartz’s suicide the "product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach." Pretty heavy stuff.

Pretty heavy stuff, indeed, reflecting, no doubt, the family’s understandable anguish at the loss of such a beautiful genius. But Swartz deserves more than such ranting to stir up a media circus.  His memory deserves more.

Swartz did a lot in a short life, as all of the news articles and obituaries have pointed out over, and over, and over in the last three days. He was Jewish, his family is Jewish, the media are Jewish – it all adds up to a tremendous amount of MSM bandwidth for a horrible tragedy. But lots of brilliant people kill themselves every day. Lots of black people, Latino people, poor people, for instance, kill themselves while facing long prison sentences for crimes they did not commit, and you don’t hear a peep about them.  You don't see MSM repeating claims of "prosecutorial overreach."  Lots of unstable and mentally disabled people who are at least as brilliant as Swartz commit suicide without a word of it being reported.  So what's the deal with Aaron Swartz?  

What is particularly annoying about the MSM treatment of this case is that they are spinning this thing to make it look like Swartz was a young kid fooling around in his dorm room and got busted and tortured by the Gestapo for downloading 50 Cent tunes. For instance, Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, wrote an absurd New Yorker piece making Aaron Swartz out to be Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Henry David Thoreau all rolled up into one. Wu deceitfully argues that Swartz should not have been prosecuted because Swartz did not harm anyone. We have heard this idiocy ad nauseam now for 4 days. Swartz did not harm anyone in the same sense that the pedophile who gets busted getting off the plane by cops who were pretending to be a 12 year old girl online did not hurt anyone. Yeah, technically, the perp who gets busted before he can consummate his crime doesn’t "hurt anyone," but that doesn’t mean he didn’t commit a crime and it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be prosecuted according to the law for trying to commit the crime. Any professor of law should have the brains and legal education to know that.

Then there was Swartz’s lawyer, Elliot Peters, who, in my opinion, is likely as culpable for Swartz’s death as anyone. He’s all part of the "draconian" judicial system that prosecuted Swatrz. If he is typical for criminal defense suits, his fees would have been a larger contributing factor to the bankruptcy Swartz was reported to have feared than any fine Swartz would have had to pay. And yet Peters has the balls to excoriate the federal prosecutors for threatening Swartz with longer prison sentences if Swartz didn’t accept a plea offer.   When was the last time the media gave the microphone to a lawyer of a black kid busted for dealing crack so the lawyer could bitch about the kid being threatened with prison? Huuuullllllooo, dude. That’s what prosecutors do. They threaten perps with long jail sentences to encourage the perp to plea out. If you’re too stupid to understand that, turn in your law license. 

The Internet is awash with reams and reams of pics of Aaron Swartz. The cute Aaron, the brilliant Aaron, the activist Aaron, the photogenic Aaron. All of these things Aaron was, which is one reason his suicide digs at us. But there are other pics of Swartz out there, too. Pics of Aaron breaking into computer facilities at MIT, trying to hide his face as he steals giga-bytes and giga-bytes of data worth tens of thousands of dollars on the market. If you want to see pics of Aaron the felon actually breaking into the MIT computers, you’re likely not to find them in the US press. You’ll have to go to the UK.  

I am not saying that Aaron Swartz was a bad person, I am saying it is very apparent he broke the law, and in spite of all of the hissing and hysteria that is going on in the MSM, we should be asking what really motivated this good person to break the law. That would have come out in trial and mitigated his punishment or avoided it altogether. Apparently Swartz was afraid he didn’t have that much to convince a jury with.

Aaron Swartz wanted a better world for everyone, a fairer world. He ripped off tons of JSTOR data ostensibly in pursuit of his idea of the way the world should be. Unfortunately, he was not willing or not able to accept that committing a felony in pursuit of a more perfect world may have consequences. The world is a worse place without Aaron Swartz. It would have been a worse place with Aaron Swartz locked up. But according to tweets from Tom Dolan, the husband of the U.S. Attorney prosecuting Swartz, Swartz wouldn’t have been locked up for long. He was offered a deal of 6 months in prison. It seems awfully odd to me that this young man would have inflicted so much pain on his loved ones because he could not accept a 6 month sentence.  If he would do that, it's reprehensible, and nothing I have read about him suggests he was a person who could be characterized as "reprehensible."  But if he killed himself because of his history of depression or mental illness, then it is reprehensible of his family to lay his suicide at the feet of the prosecutors or the judicial system. 

One last point and I'll shut up on this.  I think it is worthwhile to compare the Swartz case with another young man, Bradley Manning, who also longed for a better world for everyone – a world where arrogant, asshole US pilots in Apache helicopters don’t "light-up" small children and innocent, unarmed adults with devastating rocket-fire and then laugh about it. A world in which international laws prevent an asshole country like the US from shooting up the globe with drones and from sheltering whacked out baby-killers like Bobby Bales from local prosecution for their crimes.  Manning faces life in prison and has already done years – far more than the 6 months offered Swartz. And Manning hasn’t even got to a trial yet. Manning’s act of disobedience was 1000x more courageous and 1000x more significant than anything Swartz ever did. And just like a world without Swartz, the world is a worse place – far worse – with Bradley Manning locked up. When is the last time you heard the MSM blow a gasket over "prosecutorial overreach" in the Bradley Manning case? Don’t hold your breath.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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