House Committee Demands Answers From Justice Department Over The Prosecution Of Aaron Swartz

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It's been a few weeks now since noted activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide. Since then, there has been a lot of discussion in regards to our justice system and how it handles prosecution. The House promised to look into it, and now the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will be doing just that.

Darrell Issa, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman, and Elijah Cummings, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding a briefing from the Justice Department on the prosecution of Aaron Swartz. Most of the letter recounts the history of Swartz' case, but the end dives into what the Committee wants out of the briefing:

Many questions have been raised about the appropriate level of punishment sought by prosecutors for Mr. Swartz's alleged offenses, and how the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, cited in 11 of 13 counts against Mr. Swartz, should apply under similar circumstances. For example, according to Marc Zwillinger, a former federal prosecutor familiar with cybercrime investigations, "[t]he question in any given case is whether the prosecutor asked for too much, and properly balanced the harm caused in a particular case with the defendant's true culpability."

From there, the letter demands that the Justice Department answer the following questions at a briefing:

  • What factors influenced the decision to prosecute Mr. Swartz for the crimes alleged in the indictment, including the decisions regarding what crimes to charge and the filing of the superseded indictment?
  • What Mr. Swartz's opposition to SOPA or his association with any advocacy groups among the factors considered?
  • What specific plea offers were made to Mr. Swartz, and what factors influenced the decisions by prosecutors regarding plea offers made to Mr. Swartz?
  • How did the criminal charges, penalties sought, and plea offers in this case compare to those of other cases that have been prosecuted or considered for prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?
  • Did the federal investigation of Mr. Swartz reveal evidence that he had committed other hacking violations?
  • What factors influenced the Department's decision regarding sentencing proposals?
  • Why was a superseding indictment necessary?
  • It's kind of a long shot, but the DoJ might just humor the House Committee and actually show up. The Department will have to schedule the briefing for a day before February 4. We'll let you know if the DoJ responds, or it it schedules a briefing. If it does show up, it might yield some interesting results as Issa has proven to be pretty tough on these matters.

    [h/t: The Hill]

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