Department of Justice

Sen. Cornyn Sends Critical Letter to Holder About Swartz Case

Not happy about zealous prosecution

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sent a sharply worded letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday questioning the Department of Justice's prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who was found dead of a suspected suicide last week after fighting federal hacking charges for two years.

Cornyn wrote that he was "saddened" by Swartz's "tragic" death, and raised aggressive questions about the appropriateness of the federal case against him. The office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz charged Swartz, 26, with 13 felony counts for downloading millions of academic journal articles from the online database JSTOR. Although the scope of the simultaneous downloads violated JSTOR's terms of service agreement, Swartz had legal access to the articles through his JSTOR account. JSTOR did not press charges against Swartz and urged the prosecution to drop their case against him.

"As you are doubtless aware, Mr. Swartz was facing an aggressive prosecution by the Department of Justice when he took his own life," Cornyn wrote, saying that the fact Swartz would have faced decades in prison if convicted "raises important questions about prosecutorial conduct."