As the Congressional investigation into the DOJ's prosecution of Aaron Swartz has continued, apparently a DOJ representative has admitted that part of the reason it insisted on having Swartz plead guilty to a felony and go to jail, no matter what, was that it feared the public backlash for the original arrest if they couldn't then show a felony conviction and jailtime. According to a Huffington Post article, quoting various sources:
Some congressional staffers left the briefing with the impression that prosecutors believed they needed to convict Swartz of a felony that would put him in jail for a short sentence in order to justify bringing the charges in the first place, according to two aides with knowledge of the briefing.
The odd thing is this little tidbit comes at the very, very end of a longer article, most of which focuses on the DOJ telling Congressional staffers that part of the reason they went after Swartz with such zeal was because of his infamous Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. That might explain why they were so eager to arrest him, but it seems like the much bigger deal, considering all the concern about prosecutor discretion, that after they arrested him, they then didn't want to look bad, which is why they continued to demand jailtime and felony convictions.
Source: Techdirt. Read full article. (link)