Intellectual Property

J.D. Tuccille Appears on RT To Discuss the Persecution of Aaron Swartz


I went on RT to discuss the over-the-top prosecution of Reddit co-founder and online activist, Aaron Swartz, for downloading (a lot of) academic papers from JSTOR. He was entitled to do so, but his enthusiasm for making information available drove him well beyond the usual usage of the system. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, with her eyes on the Massachusetts governor's office, and her sidekick in excess, Stephen Heymann, saw an opportunity to pad their resumes with cyber-crime convictions, and brought felony charges that carried hard prison time. After an extensive and unsuccessful battle to convince the prosecutors to take a behind-bars penalty off the table, Swartz took his own life. I'm not the only one who thinks the prosecution was disgusting and that the law and prosecutorial abuses need to be reined-in.

Incidentally, just before Swartz's suicide, JSTOR announced that it's making millions of articles available, for free.

NEXT: 49 More Americans Banned From Russia

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. As perverse as it sounds, Aaron’s death may benefit the rest of us by giving the emotions-based public a reason to oppose our shitty law-and-order state. Sure, it kills brown people and the poor daily, but now that they are responsible for the death a successful, ell known white person.

    Or maybe I’m being the electorate too much credit.

    1. *GIVING the electorate too much credit. Eh.

  2. I have a question. Is it possible to disjoin the fact that the doofus committed suicide from the fact that he was being chased by the fed?

    1. Good question…it should be possible. Suicide suggests much more going on with Swartz than just being pro/per-secuted. “Free [insert imprisoned]” campaigns have shown it is possible to raise awareness of injustice, but to TSSK’s point, we the people don’t tend to notice until the ‘right’ people are served injustice.

      1. Add in to that the fact that he rejected a plea deal that would have gotten him six months.

      2. also, am I the only one who hears Gillespie’s voice when Tuccille speaks? And what is with the yellow accents on those doors?!

        1. Nick’s New Jersey accent is almost as mellifluous as my dulcet New York tones. And the door accents are very Arizona.

      3. I guess that depends. If I was facing a likely 35 year prison sentence, I would off myself too. Personally, I’ve never understood people who fight to get life in prison instead of the death sentence. YMMV.

        1. White-hot rage is sufficient reason to cling to life. It’s how I get through my day when I can’t hit the mute button fast enough.

          A shame all the way around.

    2. Do you honestly think they are 2 separate issues?

      1. It’s possible that they are. The guy was notably depressed throughout his life.

        1. The are separate in the sense that if the guy hadn’t committed suicide, that still wouldn’t excuse Ortiz’ behavior. Yes, the guy clearly had other issues.

          The fact that he committed suicide is only relevant in that that is what brought Ortiz’ behavior into the public consciousness.

          The lesson should be, this woman is a craven bitch, not it is okay to be a craven bitch provided your victim isn’t unstable and won’t commit suicide.

          1. But what she did is common practice, so going after her alone isn’t really justice. It’s the whole system of trumped up charges that needs to be fixed — if the federal government is willing to only put this guy away for 6 months on a plea bargain, then shouldn’t he be allowed to stand trial with a potential sentence of only 6 months?

            What they are going is creating a 1 man prisoner’s dilemma — you can plead guilty and get a maximum of 6 months or you can take your chances and face a possible life sentence (essentially since he would be behind bars until he was 60). The potential loss there is so big, that these guys almost ALWAYS take the plea bargain, which is the whole point! And it means that no one is really getting a fair trial.

            1. But what she did is common practice, so going after her alone isn’t really justice.

              yes it is. You have to start somewhere. It is impossible to go after all of them at once. So if we follow your logic, we will never do anything. Make an example out of her and that is a start towards getting the rest of them in line.

        2. Point taken, but looking at 5-10 years in Federal prison wouldn’t make him any less depressed.

          1. He turned down a six month sentence. I can’t believe that he didn’t know something worse would be coming.

            1. Maybe he thought himself innocent? That bitch was willing to stick him with years in prison all because he wouldn’t give her a high profile conviction for free. And even six months is an outrageous sentence for what he did. If they had offered probation or anything approaching a just sentence, I would have much more sympathy for Ortiz.

              1. I’m not trying to say Ortiz wasn’t a piece of shit for throwing the book at him. However, I really think the story NEEDS to stop being “he killed himself because the fed came down on him.” Nobody can know that for sure.

              2. “Maybe he thought himself innocent?”

                Swartz could only believe himself innocent in the way Manti Te’o believed he had a girlfriend. Hiding a laptop in a utility closet in response to consistently getting blocked from regular access is not the action of an innocent man.

            2. If he was a regular reader of H&R, I’d agree. But he might have been truly ignorant of the punitive nature of prosecutors, or else thought he stood a good chance of winning a jury trial.

              Maybe I’m just projecting. If I were staring at 5-10 years in prison, I’d probably opt out, too.

            3. He turned down a six month sentence. I can’t believe that he didn’t know something worse would be coming.

              Well, taking into account the fact that he was certainly a political activist, I think we should look at turning down the plea deal a bit differently. A trial gives you publicity and the possibility of getting the law changed; a plea deal gets you neither (maybe publicity, but significantly less). Suicide has results much more similar to a trial.

              That’s not to say he wasn’t depressed or there weren’t other factors in his being suicidal, but there are reasons not to take the deal even if it is safer in terms of jail time.

              1. Another thing is, where was he going to do his time? Not that six months in prison is pleasant anywhere, but the prison where Martha Stewart, or the Watergate guys went, is a whole lot different than six months at, say Angola.

                It’s extortion, and it’s fairly unique to our system of justice. Plea bargain rates in even the U.K., don’t even come close to our rates, which are, IIRC, ~95 percent+.

                Again, the Feds were pissed off at him for his Pacer hack, and were looking for an excuse. How much money does the DoJ bring in from Pacer each year anyway?

        3. It’s possible that they are. The guy was notably depressed throughout his life.

          Maybe he was depressed about all the prison time innocent people will be serving under NY’s new gun laws.[/sarc]

          Seriously, fuck Aaron Schwarz. He got the government he wanted.

  3. If the backlash doesn’t nothing more than keep Ortiz and Heymann from advancing their political careers, at least something good will come. I imagine something new and shiney will come along and distract Issa from tackling tyrannical prosecutors.

  4. It would have been more tragically ironic if you were on the Russian telecast of RT, Tuccille, as the Russians do have a history of this type of dispensation of justice. Quite recent too, as one of the “singers” for Pussy Riot was recently denied a reduction in her sentence.

    Also, Swartz was a thief, but his crime did not merit such a zealous pursuit.

    1. Also, Swartz was a thief, but his crime did not merit such a zealous pursuit.

      Nice goin’, doc. Way to light the anti-IP patrol beacon.

      1. Meh. Anti-IP::Libertarians* == Abortion::TEAM RED == Gun Grabbing::TEAM BLUE.

        Meaning, all are fruitless endeavours to pursue and aren’t going anywhere.

        *I can also safely throw in employer provided insurance, professional licensing, and limited liability.

    2. The Pussy Riot case is a pretty good analogy to this one. Pussy Riot did commit a crime. But the political nature of it caused them to be prosecuted way beyond anything demanded by justice. Same is true here. And sadly there is less difference between the US and Russia than most Americans would like to believe.

      1. The Pussy Riot affair is reported very differently on Russian and Ukrainian teevee and those gals are overall viewed pretty unfavourably, though they do have support from the EU. Dr. Podruga Groovova told me she thinks they are, and I quote, “Disrespectful hooligans and whores,” but thinks the gulag was a bit harsh.

  5. I’m sorry but suicide is a personal choice. No one forced him to do it. I thought libertarians were about personal responsibility.

    1. Sure. That is very true. Ortiz is not guilty of murder. No one is saying that. Ortiz is guilty of being a typical craven careerist prosecutor. If the fact that she was unlucky enough to finally screw with someone who was unstable enough to kill themselves is what causes her to pay for that, well I guess it wasn’t her lucky day.

      1. How will she pay? I doubt she feels any guilt, and she is immune from prosecution. If anything this will give her name recognition and be a steppingstone to higher political office.

        It was indeed her lucky day.

        1. In other words, she was correctly responding to incentives!

        2. She won’t be able to run for governor now sarcasmic. Even Democrats are mad at her for this. Her career is done. She will have to settle for being a US attorney for the rest of her life.

          Now to normal people who have a sense of morality like you and I that sounds like she got away with it. But to someone as immoral and repulsive as Ortiz, that is like sending her to hell.

          1. I dunno. Sometimes the fact that a name is recognized is more important than why it is recognized.

    2. Sure, but few gave a fuck about the important issue of prosecutorial excess until this bright fellow offed himself so look on the goddamn bright side, sour puss.

  6. Too chill.

  7. Some times dude you jsut gotta roll with the punches.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.