Aaron Swartz Could Have Killed Someone, Robbed A Bank & Sold Child Porn & Faced Less Time In Prison

from the the-system,-she-is-broken dept

Among the many injustices in the Justice Department's pursuit of Aaron Swartz was the disproportionate punishment he was facing. Remember that he used an open network connection at MIT, which explicitly allowed free guest access, to download academic research papers that were available for free for any user on that particular network. And yet, due to the US Attorney's Office led by Carmen Ortiz and Steve Heymann piling on additional charges, Swartz was potentially facing 50 years in prison.

Yes, reports claimed that Heymann offered to plea bargain things down to a mere 7 years in prison, but that's still an insane length, and by rejecting such a plea offer, Swartz guaranteed that Heymann was likely to throw the book at him and seek the maximum. That's how they work.

Over at ThinkProgress, Ian Millhiser, looks at the maximum jail terms for other crimes, and wonders how it's possible that Swartz had the potential to spend even more years in jail. It's quite a list, and you should go check out the full thing, but here are a few of the more interesting ones:
  • Manslaughter: Federal law provides that someone who kills another human being “[u]pon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion” faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if subject to federal jurisdiction. The lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of only six years.
  • Bank Robbery: A person who “by force and violence, or by intimidation” robs a bank faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. If the criminal “assaults any person, or puts in jeopardy the life of any person by the use of a dangerous weapon or device,” this sentence is upped to a maximum of 25 years.
  • Selling Child Pornography: The maximum prison sentence for a first-time offender who “knowingly sells or possesses with intent to sell” child pornography in interstate commerce is 20 years. Significantly, the only way to produce child porn is to sexually molest a child, which means that such a criminal is literally profiting off of child rape or sexual abuse.
  • Knowingly Spreading AIDS: A person who “after testing positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and receiving actual notice of that fact, knowingly donates or sells, or knowingly attempts to donate or sell, blood, semen, tissues, organs, or other bodily fluids for use by another, except as determined necessary for medical research or testing” faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
  • Selling Slaves: Under federal law, a person who willfully sells another person “into any condition of involuntary servitude” faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, although the penalty can be much higher if the slaver’s actions involve kidnapping, sexual abuse or an attempt to kill.
  • Helping al-Qaeda Develop A Nuclear Weapon: A person who “willfully participates in or knowingly provides material support or resources . . . to a nuclear weapons program or other weapons of mass destruction program of a foreign terrorist power, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be imprisoned for not more than 20 years.”
  • Violence At International Airports: Someone who uses a weapon to “perform[] an act of violence against a person at an airport serving international civil aviation that causes or is likely to cause serious bodily injury” faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years if their actions do not result in a death.
And Aaron faced more than any of those for accessing freely available knowledge. Something seems very, very, very wrong about that.


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    Ninja (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 7:42am

    Something seems very, very, very wrong about that.

    Something IS very wrong with the whole thing.

    It was plain and clear revenge on him for his activism. And probably an attempt to make him an example to be used on more unconstitutional, draconian laws dealing with technology by telling people "see? advocates of free speech and against overreaching laws are bad criminals".

    Those attorneys may be eventually removed from their jobs if popular pressure mounts but without broad and intense protesting against the system that leads to such abuses they'll only be replaced by other faces that will still do the same.

     

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    DCX2, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 9:36am

    "he wasn't going to get the max"

    I see this argument a lot - that he wasn't going to get the max, so there's no point in talking about the max and we should instead focus on the plea deals.

    Except that's part of the problem. The prosecutor uses the insane "not gunna happen" maximum to intimidate and railroad suspects. And believe it or not, sometimes they DO get the max. And even if he didn't get the max, he'd still be labeled a felon, as if he were some violent murderer.

    There had to be some motive on the part of the prosecutor to do this. The injured party even asked that the case dropped, and yet the prosecutor continued. Why? Who stood to gain from this?

     

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      Jeremy Lyman (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:06am

      Re: "he wasn't going to get the max"

      I get the feeling that 'the gov' hadn't had a teen hacker case in a while and were itching for a current lesson in "that's why you conform son, The Man always wins!" to show us all that technology isn't some wild-west area, out of the auspices of "civilized" legislation.

      I hope (hope, hope!) that instead it becomes a lesson to the government that this isn't some disconnected pre-industrial situation where information can be controlled, corralled and exploited by the privileged few. You cannot will facts out of existence and spreading ideas is not a crime.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:12am

      Re: "he wasn't going to get the max"

      From business insider.com:

      "Swartz's attorney was lobbying for the following deal:
      Plead guilty to a misdemeanor
      No jail time

      The prosecutors, meanwhile, were insisting on:

      Plead guilty to all 13 felonies
      4 months in jail".....


      "Swartz's other option, meanwhile, was defending himself. Although Swartz's lawyer believes he had a good case, and although he would probably have been a sympathetic defendant, he obviously could have lost. And if he had lost, he would have been convicted of at least some of the felonies and gone to jail for much longer than four months. (The prosecutor's estimate, Swartz's lawyer told the Daily Beast, was 7 years--because the judge in the case is known for harsh sentences."

      So it appears that he was looking at 4 months on a plea and was risking up to 7 years if he went to trial and lost.



      Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/aaron-swartz-plea-deal-2013-1#ixzz2I4KY3gFM

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:09pm

        Re: Re: "he wasn't going to get the max"

        Which is still completely unjustifiable when compared with other felonies. Moreover, those sentences would probably have been sequential.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:16pm

          Re: Re: Re: "he wasn't going to get the max"

          No, not sequential. Total. Can you not read English? How in the hell could you possibly misinterpret that? If it was consecutive, it would be 13 charges x 4 months or 52 months. If he went to trial and lost it would be 13 x 7 years or 91 years, which exceeds the statutory maximum by decades. It's ok to have a different perspective, but you look like a desperate moron when you go off on these absurd assertions.

           

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      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:26am

      Re: "he wasn't going to get the max"

      There had to be some motive on the part of the prosecutor to do this. The injured party even asked that the case dropped, and yet the prosecutor continued. Why? Who stood to gain from this?

      The prosecutors stood to gain. Maybe they wanted a promotion, and they need to show felony convictions. Maybe they have political ambitions and need to point to their "tough on crime" or "tough on white collar crime" to get elected. Maybe they wanted a case to point to against "those hacker kids" so they can get a job at a lobbyist firm for the copyright cartel.

      Instead of looking at the facts, instead of being fair, instead of using discretion, there was some motive for them not to be reasonable. Whatever the motive, it ends up at either they were corrupt or stupid, and we lost an incredibly promising person.

       

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    John Doe, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 9:38am

    The really amazing thing is...

    In the whole IP vs. piracy argument, the thing that really amazes me is there are people who feel the astronomically large fines and prison sentences for the mere act of copying is justified. In what world do those people live in that copying 1's and 0's justifies such large, life ruining punishments?

     

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      MrWilson, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:09am

      Re: The really amazing thing is...

      Spite. It's pure spite.

      And it's because they thought they knew the rules and they figured out how to break them for profit (Hollywood accounting, unfavorable contracts for artists and actors, lawyer tricks, lobbying to buy legislation) and then a new generation of upstart tech-savvy kids comes along and undermines the power they've built up by shifting the paradigms so that the old standbys such as being able to artificially limit and legally control copying aren't as powerful as they once were.

      They were the old pirates that became the establishment and they hate it when young punk pirates think they know how to game the system that they created, despite the fact that they gamed the system that was created before them.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:09am

      Re: The really amazing thing is...

      The problems are not as much related to the single penalties. It is related to the stacking: If you rub a bank you get 20 years and if you are very violent it can become 25 years. However it is a single crime you will get prosecuted for.

      In computer-related crimes, it is over time and you are therefore stacking up charges for a single crime. On top of that several different charges can apply to a single case.

      If the bankrubber had to go to jail for illegal weapon posession, threats, endangerment, several accounts of theft, threspassing, and potentially violence and several other charges depending on the situation, he would also face a far higher sentence than he gets for a single bankrubbery charge. That is the real problem here. That the single charges have a pretty high end penalty in itself is of lesser importance to the case.

       

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        MrWilson, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:39am

        Re: Re: The really amazing thing is...

        Is there a string of bankrubberies I haven't heard about? Is that when you rub the bank the wrong way?

         

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        Scott@DreamlandVisions (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 1:28pm

        Re: Re: The really amazing thing is...

        To make the analogy even better, the bank robber should be tried on one count per dollar bill stolen, the way you get charged with X counts for X tracks of music downloaded from a single torrent session.

        Steal 10,000 in 20's, that's 500 counts of robber. Stacked.

         

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      Binko Barnes (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:10am

      Re: The really amazing thing is...

      There is a significant percentage of the public who actively enjoy seeing other people punished. Once a class of people are demonized there is no limit to the punishment that can be meted out. Aaron Swartz belonged to the generally demonized classes of "troublemaker", "hippy", "activist" etc. To the mind of those who love doling out punishment, this justifies any degree of torment.

      There is a another, even larger, percentage who are essentially passive. They don't pay attention to details and tend to have a rose-tinted view of institutions like our Justice System. They vaguely support whatever their mainstream media outlet of choice supports.

      Perhaps only 5% of the public actually care about legal principals, proportionate punishment and similar issues.

       

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      maclypse (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 3:27pm

      Re: The really amazing thing is...

      Well, see... murder, rape, assault, breaking and entering... all these things hurt citizens. Copyright infringement hurts large corporations.

      The government, regardless of whoever is currently in charge, are far more loyal to the corporations, than the people they are supposed to represent.

       

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        PaulT (profile), Jan 16th, 2013 @ 1:10am

        Re: Re: The really amazing thing is...

        "Copyright infringement hurts large corporations."

        Correction: it supposedly hurts them, but this has never been proven and in fact many studies show that "pirates" also spend the most money on content.

        One of the most problematic things is that the corporations have *claimed* that this is destroying their businesses but have never proven it beyond a vague correlation - e.g. music album sales dropped in the period since Napster, but there's 100 other possible factors ranging from competition from videogames and other media to unbundling having made the album itself obsolete in favour of much lower revenue single content. In some cases, even the correlation isn't there - e.g. box office grosses being at an all time high at the same time studios that whine about lost sales through piracy.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 9:39am

    it's not just what could have happened to Aaron concerning his possible sentence, it shows how distorted the whole US justice system has become in order to please the elite few in the Entertainment industries. the sentences being handed out in both fines and jail time over so-called 'copyright infringement' and 'file sharing' are so ridiculous in relation to 'real crimes' like those listed, it actually beggars belief!! in his case, why were the documents that were already in 'the public domain' still only available if money changed hands?

    i sincerely hope that his passing will not be in vain but i fear the control that has been afforded to the labels, the studios and similar organisations by unthinking, uncaring and 'i am so keen to do what you want me to, sir, that i am falling over backwards to screw the public as well' politicians and law enforcement, they are going to ignore this tragedy and try to tighten their grip even more, adding further stupid laws along the way! this is an ideal opportunity for EVERYONE to learn. dont throw it away!!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:54am

      Re:

      it's not just what could have happened to Aaron concerning his possible sentence, it shows how distorted the whole US justice system has become in order to please the elite few in the Entertainment industries.

      So it is the entertainment industry behind this? You truly are delusional.

       

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        Ed C., Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:26am

        Re: Re:

        Reading comprehension fail.

        The other AC did not say that the "entertainment industry" was directly behind this. Clearly stated "in his case, why were the documents that were already in 'the public domain' still only available if money changed hands?" The crux of the argument was that the punishments Swartz faced were due to the many laws the entertainment industry passed over the years.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The crux of the argument was that the punishments Swartz faced were due to the many laws the entertainment industry passed over the years.

          Most of the serious charges were under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. That is not an entertainment industry bill. Which entertainment industry bills was he charged under? Sounds like the crux of the argument is bullshit.

           

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        Simple Mind (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:33am

        Re: Re:

        Not entertainment, but there is a large copyright industry built around the selling of academic papers. This, as a closet scientist, is an insane situation to me. I have to pay $25 just to look at some of the papers I am interested in. Knowledge should be free.

        It remains unclear the motivations for the prosecutor bullying in this particular (Swartz) situation, though. What is clear is that it should not have happened.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:08pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I have to pay $25 just to look at some of the papers I am interested in. Knowledge should be free.

          It sure as hell wasn't free to generate that research. Why shouldn't you assume a small portion of the cost?

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:21pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            It wasn't free. Your tax dollars paid for the research.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:24pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "I have to pay $25 just to look at some of the papers I am interested in. Knowledge should be free.
            ...
            It sure as hell wasn't free to generate that research. Why shouldn't you assume a small portion of the cost?
            "

            He did. Part of his tax dollars went to pay for the grants that bought the equipment and paid the researchers' salaries. Now the publishers (who neither did the actual research work nor wrote up the results) want another $25 to let him see the papers. The publishers are just gatekeepers, just like the legacy entertainment industry.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:40pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              He did. Part of his tax dollars went to pay for the grants that bought the equipment and paid the researchers' salaries. Now the publishers (who neither did the actual research work nor wrote up the results) want another $25 to let him see the papers. The publishers are just gatekeepers, just like the legacy entertainment industry.

              Really? JSTOR doesn't include scholarly works of private institutions? Nice try.

               

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                Ed C., Jan 15th, 2013 @ 1:18pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Really? JSTOR doesn't include scholarly works of private institutions? Nice try.

                It sure as hell wasn't free to generate that research. Why shouldn't you assume a small portion of the cost?

                Really, journals fund research of private institutions ? Nice try.

                 

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                Richard (profile), Jan 16th, 2013 @ 3:14am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Really? JSTOR doesn't include scholarly works of private institutions? Nice try.

                There is almost no such thing as a private institution in research. Those that do exist do not receive any money from the journal publishers - because

                1 They tend to keep their research to themselves.

                2 The form of IP that they use to monetise their work is patent - not copyright.

                 

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            Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:25pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Because the people you are paying did not assume any of the cost, themselves. You think that money goes to the researchers and universities? It doesn't.

             

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            Snooki rapes Justin Beiber, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:30pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            It sure as hell wasn't free to generate this post, it takes time to write it, time is not free

            why shouldn't you assume a portion of the cost and pay me five minutes out of your own lifetime?

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:35pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Yeah, some of that research was paid for by the public and you expect the public to benefit?!?

             

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            dennis deems (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            We already have.

             

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      Ed C., Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:56am

      Re:

      in his case, why were the documents that were already in 'the public domain' still only available if money changed hands?

      It's mostly due to the legacy journal publishing industry. If I understand it correctly, they basically sold the prestige of being "published" in exchange for exclusive publishing rights, which they then used to charge huge subscription fees to few institutions that had both the interest in the field and the money to afford the fees. All this, of course, only makes sense in the context of the pre-digital era, where publishers were effectively the only way to disseminate information. Their only effective competition was other publishers. In the of case of fringe interest, such as technical and research papers, the competition would only have been other journal publishers. Even though they could legally reprint papers that were in the public domain, they did not have any interest in poaching each others articles. They effectively had exclusive rights, even over public domain documents, and could charge through the nose for them. Now, with the advent of the Internet, anyone with even passing interest can distribute these works.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:19pm

        Re: Re:

        I also believe you're confusing his previous activism downloading from PACER and the current issues with JSTOR.

        Court documents are public domain by nature, but are kept from the public by a paywall.

        JSTOR, on the other hand, is a repository for various articles provided to it by researchers and publishers. They make note on the JSTOR site that they have both copyrighted and public domain materials.

        So while JSTOR articles may have been produced in part from public money, they are not part of the public domain unless specifically released as such.

        That's all from me now. Carry on.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 9:41am

    IP laws were written by and intended for big powerful institutions with many resources (ie: large corporations). Anyone that violates laws written by and for them is a threat to their status and authority and so they should be severely punished.

    Ordinary laws are only designed to protect ordinary citizens. That's not nearly as important.

     

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      Burrito Burrito Burrito Taco Taco Taco, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:34pm

      Re:

      reminds me of Kings & Peasants

      sad we still haven't advanced past medieval times when it comes to laws and power

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 4:31pm

      Re:

      Not entirely correct many IP laws were put in place after public outcry, once musicians and actors gained a lot of power in the 70's and 80's and started to get elected they made their own laws about it to benefit themselves(wouldn't you?) and companies adapted themselves to take advantage of those rules all the while producing their own legislation and slowly molding it to what it is today.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 5:17pm

        Re: Re:

        citation needed

         

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          btrussell (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 7:19pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Political career
          See also: Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonny_Bono

          Surprised anyone here needs this citation.

          I too had a time getting past the public outcry part though.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2013 @ 10:50pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            wait, what? How is the " Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act", essentially stealing from the public (public domain theft), something that was put in place 'after public outcry' (ie: because the public wanted these laws because they thought that these laws somehow benefit them)?

            These laws were put in place because of corporate influence.

             

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 9:48am

    "Yes, reports claimed that Heymann offered to plea bargain things down to a mere 7 years in prison..."

    According to WSJ article -- Plea deal was 6-8 months (not years) of jail if he plead guilty to all counts. 7 years was the punishment the prosecutor said they would seek if they indeed went to trial.

     

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    Shmerl, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 9:56am

    > And Aaron faced more than any of those for accessing freely available knowledge.

    US Attorney's Office are probably fans of ideas described in Fahrenheit 451, since they view accessing knowledge as a really terrible crime. After all knowledge can make people think... Surprisingly they didn't propose to burn JSTOR down yet, just in case.

     

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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 9:57am

    Computer = Magic

    Somehow I think if he'd written a script to do any of these things they'd have multiplied the counts since laws are written based on a singe instance. But that's how it works when you're demonizing something you don't understand because... hey witch-hunt!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:06am

    "...the only way to produce child porn is to sexually molest a child,..."

    That's kind of inaccurate. There are other ways, as we know it. One can just draw a picture - that would be enough...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:10am

    "the only way to produce child porn is to sexually molest a child"

    or take a picture of yourzelf on your own phone and text it to one of your classmates. or edit a pic in photoshop. or draw a picture. just correctin your bull

     

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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:11am

    Apple to Apples Comparison

    To be fair, Aaron was threatened with multiple charges, "piling on" as you put it. The accumulation of all his maximum sentences if all served consecutively would be greater than these listed crimes individually. Albeit, for a bunch of these listed crimes there are typically multiple charges and counts which could culminate in greater sentence lengths. I'm not saying it is right, the prosecutor is always going to shore up his arsenal so he can hopefully get a plea bargain for a slam dunk case.

     

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      Jason, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:26am

      Re: Apple to Apples Comparison

      That's sort of the point. The net effect of what was done is still the same. A little network lag/downtime equal to little more than a prank between schools and some renegade downloading, by someone authorized to have access, information that should not have been closed off in the first place.

      The fact that so many counts were applicable on paper is part of what makes this case so ridiculous.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:13am

    since the government announced that all charges against Aaron had been dropped, why has there been nothing further said about that arse hole Heymann, who was a big contributor in the suicide decision?

     

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      Jay (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:19am

      Re:

      In 2008, he led a prosecution against another hacker which lead to suicide.

      This is all coming out now because he seems to have an unusually high profile in being extremely aggressive.

      It's kind of like a redwood... The bigger they are, the harder they fall. I think the damage over this suicide is going to be devastating.

       

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      Jay (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:20am

      Re:

      In 2008, he led a prosecution against another hacker which lead to suicide.

      This is all coming out now because he seems to have an unusually high profile in being extremely aggressive.

      It's kind of like a redwood... The bigger they are, the harder they fall. I think the damage over this suicide is going to be devastating.

       

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    G Thompson (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:17am

    Mike, I thought you would of known better than to portray specific charges that have up to 20yrs maximum (or less) EACH compared to the combined MULTIPLE charges that Aaron was actually charged with.

    Though I absolutely agree that the maximum penalties that could be imposed by sentencing even combined is and would be excessive if anyone was given them by a sentencing court after being found guilty on all counts in reference to the charges Aaron was charged with.

    Though they were property/infrastructure charges that have always historically had greater sentences than most personal violence offences. ie: Common Assault (non violent causing no lasting damage) has always been less than common theft in most common law (based on original English law) countries. It's without going into the history basically to do with property owned by the sovereign compared to the personal body/self of the common serf.

    Sentencing though has always been a strange phenomenon that is highly unpredictable (to an extent) everywhere in common law countries especially if the court has discretion and is guided by community mores, character, previous history of criminality, mental health, family & community ties, etcetera (the list is huge) and not by what a maximum can be (and no more). It's rare you see MUST be X number of years/months on penalties.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:23am

    Looking at that list I wonder how and why "accidentaly" killing another human being is less of a problem then robbing a fucking bank. I'd a life of another human to be worth more than a few thousand dollars?

    And how is an act of causing "serious bodily injury", noting that the only thing special about it is that it occurred on an airport(seriously why is this special at all? As far as I am concerned civil workers are no more or less human beings than anyone else who happen to be seriously wounded? Someone explain please) , more of a crime than for example giving people AIDs, assuming here that AIDS "is likely to cause serious bodily injury" just as well if not more?

    The list of crimes and how society punishes them is a bigger issue then what you are pointing out, it seems, just hope people realize that justice systems world wide are pretty much jokes that for the most part are broken and or don't work, the list, more than the article, makes the case nicely.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:35am

    Yes, reports claimed that Heymann offered to plea bargain things down to a mere 7 years in prison, but that's still an insane length, and by rejecting such a plea offer, Swartz guaranteed that Heymann was likely to throw the book at him and seek the maximum. That's how they work.

    That is simply untrue. The deal on the table was for 4 months. The prosecutor advised Swartz attorney that he'd likely get 7 years if he went to trial and lost. Seems like the facts don't square with your position. Sorry.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/aaron-swartz-plea-deal-2013-1#ixzz2I4KY3gFM

     

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      Ruben, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 1:00pm

      Re:

      That doesn't invalidate the entire article here, you're being pedantic.

      Even if he accepted the plea, he'd still be a convicted felon. [b]Which is a big deal.[/b]

      Regardless, the article is pointing out the ridiculousness of the term he faced in comparison to other, more heinous crimes.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:48am

    cruel and unusual punishment

    I would argue "cruel and unusual punishment" under the The Eighth Amendment. This clearly seems as excessive punishments for his aleged crime(s).

     

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      shane (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 1:03pm

      Re: cruel and unusual punishment

      I think this is why he should have stuck it out. We will never know, I guess, why he suddenly caved under the pressure here, but the fact is for him personally the felony conviction would likely have been more of a red badge of courage than a ball and chain. Four months in prison could have garnered him nearly as much attention as he is getting now, and left him alive to fight another day.

      I want to reiterate for those of you who are young and idealistic - find a way to live on and fight another day. It is very clear that our current regime is evil. It does not necessarily follow that there is no hope. Please hang in there.

      The only real harm Aaron ever did was to himself and the ones he cared about. You don't win by destroying yourself and breaking the hearts of your family, your friends, and your allies

      I don't mean this as a judgement against Aaron. I mean it as a hopeful call to others to resist the temptation to capitulate.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 10:51am

    "Mike, I thought you would of known better than to portray specific charges that have up to 20yrs maximum (or less) EACH compared to the combined MULTIPLE charges that Aaron was actually charged with."

    That doesn't actually change anything. Taking files that were free to anyone on the MIT campus, from publicly funded research studies, can create a situation that is more negative to society than murder or selling child pornography?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:05am

    But... but... piracy is EVIL!!! so Aaron must be evil!!!

    Murder, robbing a bank, selling child porn, and even helping terrorists get their hands on nuclear weapons has a FINITE amount of ECONOMIC damage! Banks only have so much money to steal! Murder victims only have so much lifetime economic value!

    But IP papers he stole! PRICELESS!!! Those papers he stole are worth terrorists with their hands on 100 nuclear weapons! Because terrorists can ONLY do a a few dozen BILLION dollars of economic damage with a nuclear weapon! Giving away IP for FREE however, could undermine the ENTIRE IP system, and destroy TRILLIONS in wealth if that knowledge were actually SHARED!!!

    The horror!!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:18am

    In the unlikely event readers are interested in legitimacy of the charges Swartz faced, the following is from a blog largely populated by law professors:

    http://www.volokh.com/2013/01/14/aaron-swartz-charges/

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:45pm

      Re:

      Not that I think the Volokh Conspiracy is really worth the time or effort, but a few simple rebuttals to your analysis.

      II(a) He was accessing an open computer system through a guest account. MIT keeps the network open, allowing this sort of access. It seems unclear how his access could be unauthorized on a system specifically designed to freely give anyone that authorization. Since MIT was a JSTOR client, giving that access to anyone legally accessing their network, I really find the argument presented to be difficult to sustain.

      II(c) First, he didn't 'break into a restricted closet.' There was no breaking involved, as it was unlocked and openly accessible. Knowing nothing specifically about the JSTOR site, I cannot know for fact that he didn't just use a common password linked to the MIT account. Considering that there was no hacking involved, and only simple scripting to use common command line commands, I find that argument to be weak.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:47pm

      Re:

      Not that I think the Volokh Conspiracy is really worth the time or effort, but a few simple rebuttals to your analysis.

      II(a) He was accessing an open computer system through a guest account. MIT keeps the network open, allowing this sort of access. It seems unclear how his access could be unauthorized on a system specifically designed to freely give anyone that authorization. Since MIT was a JSTOR client, giving that access to anyone legally accessing their network, I really find the argument presented to be difficult to sustain.

      II(c) First, he didn't 'break into a restricted closet.' There was no breaking involved, as it was unlocked and openly accessible. Knowing nothing specifically about the JSTOR site, I cannot know for fact that he didn't just use a common password linked to the MIT account. Considering that there was no hacking involved, and only simple scripting to use common command line commands, I find that argument to be weak.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 1:23pm

        Re: Re:

        Not that I think the Volokh Conspiracy is really worth the time or effort, but a few simple rebuttals to your analysis.

        Right, a bunch of law professors. What do they know.

         

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          shane (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 1:47pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I believe the point he's making is people here are familiar with the site and are not terribly impressed with their rebuttals of other lawyers.

          We can all be forgiven, I hope, for being more fond of lawyers who use their expertise for the good than those who make excuses for evil.

           

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          Aliasundercover, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 3:07pm

          Re: Re: Re: Volokh Site

          Right, a bunch of law professors. What do they know.

          Actually they know a lot. They are really quite scary for how much they know, how smart they are, yet how blind they are. It is wise to study the ways of the adversary. Many of the finest rationalizations for the ascendance of property rights to dominion over human rights can be found there yet every once in a while they are genuinely right about something. The world is a strange place.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 3:29pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Volokh Site

            They are really quite scary for how much they know, how smart they are, yet how blind they are.

            I see, so you somehow know better.

             

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      shane (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 1:25pm

      Terms of Service

      This first point about him committing wire fraud has been addressed a jillion times. He violated a terms of service agreement. That's not a federal crime. This also covers the "unauthorized access" charge. I question why in the name of all that's decent we treat computer fraud and wire fraud as two different things. Possibly to circumvent laws against double jeopardy? It's insipid.

      Part of the "unauthorized access" discussion seems to be that the gentleman writing the article doesn't seem to know the difference between stealing someone's password and changing your own IP address in terms of whether you gained "unauthorized access". Passwords designate authority. IP addresses do not.

      All of this to say, Aaron had authorized access by dint of being on the MIT network. He attempted to violate the terms of service. This is not a crime. Period. End of story. Stop lying.

      The guy has been dealing with this law for years. I get that he seems to you to gain some credibility because of that, but any lawyer has a vested interest in making the law and its mechanisms seem reasonable. The man is attempting to blur the line between malignant attempts at theft or damage and violating a terms of service agreement.

      The typical punishment for violating a terms of service agreement is to not be allowed to use the service, and neither MIT nor JSTOR seemed interested in bothering with it.

      Your government, on the other hand, wanted blood. This, in no small part, is the fault of you and people like you who stubbornly defend the indefensible. They get away with murder because no one stands up to them like men and says, "no farther."

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 2:09pm

        Re: Terms of Service

        Why wire fraud and computer fraud? Because instead of updating a completely outdated law so that it could apply to new technology, they simply added a new one that was essentially the same thing wasn't necessarily over a wire. And in the event that both laws get broken at the same time, they prosecutors get a bonus! They get to charge someone two crimes for the price of one. Such a deal!

        My essential fault with Kerr's reasoning falls when he cites the Seidlitz as justification. In Seidlitz (according to Kerr) the reason that WYLBUR became "property" was that it had been "customized" for OSI's purposes and therefore was transformed from something that was previously in the public domain into something that OSI owned. Yet he fails to explain how the public documents that were simply being made available through JSTOR's database were in ANYWAY "transformed" such that they should be considered JSTOR's property. If anything this case supports the idea that this was NOT wire fraud as the implication from Seidlitz is that if WYLBUR had not been transformed into OSI's property then there would have been no fraud.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:22am

    Aaron has become, and i hate to use the word, a martyr for those of us who stand against governmental abuse of technology laws. The irony is sickening as we promote internet services as a voice for the repressed people of various countries, then turn around and not so much throw the book at our own people, but steamroll them into oblivion so prosecutors can get their much desired reputation as 'tough on crime'. tough? more like tortuous. crime? more like a misunderstanding of technology on par with asking my grandmother to configure a server.

     

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      My toliet is screaming again, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 12:41pm

      Re:

      a martyr, yes, exactly

      i hope the Kopimism religion in Sweden adopts him as their version of Jesus


      i shit you not, i actually want that to happen, and i don't know why

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:28am

    Or, he could have been Sony BMG Music, hacked half a million networks in violation of the same law Swartz violated, and never even faced criminal charges and had the civil claims settled with a slap on the wrist.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_BMG_copy_protection_rootkit_scandal

     

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    Rekrul, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:31am

    Selling Child Pornography: The maximum prison sentence for a first-time offender who “knowingly sells or possesses with intent to sell” child pornography in interstate commerce is 20 years. Significantly, the only way to produce child porn is to sexually molest a child, which means that such a criminal is literally profiting off of child rape or sexual abuse.

    That's probably per count, so if the guy was selling five video tapes, he'd probably get 100 years. Any time CP is involved, they like to pile on as many charges as possible in the hopes of keeping someone locked up for the rest of their lives.

    Helping al-Qaeda Develop A Nuclear Weapon: A person who “willfully participates in or knowingly provides material support or resources . . . to a nuclear weapons program or other weapons of mass destruction program of a foreign terrorist power, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be imprisoned for not more than 20 years.”

    Violence At International Airports: Someone who uses a weapon to “perform[] an act of violence against a person at an airport serving international civil aviation that causes or is likely to cause serious bodily injury” faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years if their actions do not result in a death.


    Actually, thanks to the NDAA, you'd probably spend the rest of your life in some nameless hole in the ground.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:43am

    So someone could be a manslaughtering bank robber that sells child porn laced with aids to terrorist building nukes then force them on slaves to be suicide bombers and get less time?

    WHAT THE FUCK...

     

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    shane (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 1:31pm

    Preaching to the Choir

    All of this in order to squelch peer to peer technology that's what? a decade and a half old now? So that Microsoft and other big money players can bring you "the cloud".

    A.k.a. overpriced hosting because peer to peer file sharing works too well and they can't make a metric tone of cash off of it.

     

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    shane (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 1:52pm

    Orin Kerr

    Hmm. Maybe not. Orin gets a lot of positive air time here at Tech Dirt.

    Not sure why that dood dislikes that site....

     

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    Gumnos (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 2:46pm

    Torture your underage sex slave, get 20yr. Release documents, get 35yr…

    Story here. Sigh. This country is so messed up.

    -gumnos

     

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    Jikap (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 3:59pm

    This is Aaron Swartz we're talking about...

    As someone obviously didn't like him:
    If he actually had robbed a bank or done any of the other things in the list, you could almost be certain that they would add a whole bunch of bogus charges against him to make sure he would get potentially locked up for life anyway...

    US "justice" is scary, and I don't think I'll ever dare set my foot on US soil now. It seems more like a legal minefield from here.

     

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    George M Anderson (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 5:15pm

    Spider Robinson once wrote: "No amount of white magic can save you from an offended bureaucracy." Somewhere up the line, Mr. Swartz offended the wrong officious official and they decided to make an example out of him as a lesson to the rest of the pleebs.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 5:25pm

    Well, he won't have to worry about prison now.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 7:56pm

    With liberty, and justice for some.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2013 @ 3:10am

    it's a shame NO ONE really cares, and taking your own life is not a way to fix things.
    Clearly, this incident was not the only reason why he took his life, he was clearly a troubled person. It is NOT ANYONE'S FAULT he killed himself, except for one person HIMSELF. It's the cowards way out, he was briefly mentioned on the news here in Australia, but no mention of this charges, so he has most certain NOT become a role model for his cause.

    Trying to put the blame on the Government or the legal system is stupid, they did not hang him, and he had 'ways out' that certainly are better than death.

    In killing himself he has left behind many, MANY victims who will probably NEVER recover from it.

    Again, he's a coward who is now responsible for a lot of people having significant pain and suffering that HE ALONE is responsible for causing.

    It's disgusting for you, and Masnick to say "at least something good may come of it" sure, way to promote others to do the same stupid and highly selfish as of killing yourself.

    NOTHING GOOD COMES FROM SUICIDE, and to try to make out otherwise shows the depth's Masnick will go to put his 'message' across.

    I also not how nice Masnick was about providing this poor person some honour in death.. NO not a fucking work, All masnick wants to do on the back of this human tragedy is to get some mileage from it.

    And he could not even do that right. New all time low for Masnick and his cult followers.

    What next Masnick, how low can you go ?

     

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    JIm D, Jan 16th, 2013 @ 7:31am

    Don't Mess with Academia

    They can get US Military recruiters ejected from their campuses too. They are bastions of Middle Ages despots and protectors of the truth. By the way, your list left off the amount of time an AG gets for selling assault rifles illegally in the US to be transported a few miles across the border to criminal drug cartels = zero time!

     

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    monkyyy, Jan 16th, 2013 @ 7:57am

    well if the police actually stop crime people cared about and didnt fill prisons w/ nonviolent, how would they get their large funding w/o both the fear and "facts" to back them up?

     

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    vbevan (profile), Jan 16th, 2013 @ 11:28pm

    This has happened before

    This weird movement towards harsh sentenceing reminds me of a quote I believe was from an ancient greek ruler (paraphrased): If only there was a punishment worse than death for the less serious crimes.

    Though on the positive side, making every crime a serious offense is how Australia was created.

     

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