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MIT insisted on jail time for Swartz

The Glob:

Swartz and his lawyers were not looking for a free pass. They had offered to accept a deferred prosecution or probation, so that if Swartz pulled a stunt like that again, he would end up in prison.

Marty Weinberg, who took the case over from Good, said he nearly negotiated a plea bargain in which Swartz would not serve any time. He said JSTOR signed off on it, but MIT would not.

“There were subsets of the MIT community who were profoundly in support of Aaron,” Weinberg said. That support did not override institutional interests.

Elliot Peters, the San Francisco lawyer who took the case over from Weinberg last fall, could not persuade prosecutors to drop their demand that Swartz plead guilty to 13 felonies and spend six months in prison. Peters was preparing to go to trial and was confident of prevailing.

Ten to one, a thousand to one, it's the Deans and the administrators -- that is, the rent-sucking, back-scratching parasites who collect huge salaries while degrading both the research and the educational missions of the institutions they infest -- who wanted jail time for Swartz, and not the faculty. One fitting memorial to Swartz would be to fire a ton of 'em.

MIT is Elizabeth Warren's district. Can she schedule some hearings?

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Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Juxtapose to this, Carmen Ortiz's PR Defense statement foisted on the press far and wide. Do you see any mention at all of JSTOR declining to press charges and MIT insisting on pressing charges come hell or hight water (i.e., that none of this let's-make-a-plea-deal business would not even have happened except for DOJ deciding to do what MIT told it to do? )

Excerpt (note the disingenous statements about how sentencing would have been up the to judge anyway, so "you can't blame me," and that a "reasonable"settlement deal was on the table -- well, if you consider making a kid sit in jail for 6 months "reasonable" in the circumsances):

"That is why in the discussions with his counsel about a resolution of the case this office sought an appropriate sentence that matched the alleged conduct – a sentence that we would recommend to the judge of six months in a low security setting. While at the same time, his defense counsel would have been free to recommend a sentence of probation. Ultimately, any sentence imposed would have been up to the judge. At no time did this office ever seek – or ever tell Mr. Swartz’s attorneys that it intended to seek – maximum penalties under the law."

[Apologies if you were eating lunch.]

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

"At no time did this office ever seek – or ever tell Mr. Swartz’s attorneys that it intended to seek – maximum penalties under the law."

No, all "this office" did was insist that this young man spend time in jail (or no deal), knowing he was a suicide risk and anything else there is to know (by any normal human being) about jail.

Carmen should go represent Big Tobacco or Big Pharma -- she'd be great at it.

Submitted by cg.eye on

-- for most hackers, isn't a condition of probation never using a computer online again, or at least having such use constantly monitored? I read that one of the hackers in Anonymous reportedly broke his probation agreement, by hacking to bring the Phelps' online presence down.

Wouldn't that be a death sentence of its own, for a man whose activist life was mostly online?

Andre's picture
Submitted by Andre on

I think I got thishere. in explanation. But I live about twenty minutes from MIT and the school has been held in high esteem in these here parts. But just as a neighbor I would give the present powers that be at MIT this message: "Hey boys and Girls, you'd better get your asses in gear about this one because your sterling reputation is about to turn to dust. And quite frankly, nothing short of 'We screwed up and we're eternally sorry' will do" and there should be a large settlement on this because you guys can certainly afford it. I mean is this how you treat our finest young minds? Is this how MIT handles extreme intelligence?

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

Very interesting piece. Is it not also likely this is about federal funding? Perhaps former MIT president Hockfield realized that some MIT funding could be in jeopardy if the school didn't go along with what the DOJ wanted?

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

There probably wasn't an explicit quid pro quo. Rather, Hockfield (like Katehi and Birgeneau) sees her role as implementing within the academy what she regards to be the "consensus" position on national security-and that has become to mean e.g. jail time for Swartz, breaking Robert Haas's ribs, and deploying military grade pepper spray on student protesters. Obama national security policies should be seen the same way-articulating elite consensus.

Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

Cui bono? Follow the money. Someone should sit down for a couple days and compile a list of all the funding MIT and various MIT profs get from NSA, DOD, CIA, etc.

Hint - a mechanical engineer who graduated from MIT a long, long time ago, stopped giving money to MIT by the 1980s, in complete disgust at what MIT had become. His kid, who also wanted to be a mechanical engineer, was sent to Harvard.