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Posted by on Jan 15, 2013 in Featured, Law, Society | 2 comments

MIT Refused To Sign Off On Plea Bargain In Aaron Swartz Case, Attorney Says

Aaron Swartz - Flickr CCAccording to one of the lawyers in the Aaron Swartz case, MIT refused to sign off on a plea bargain where Aaron would have served no prison time.

JSTOR, on the other hand, agreed. As Lawrence Lessig wrote this weekend, JSTOR understands “proportionality.”

In addition, the DOJ was aware that Aaron was a suicide risk.

Here’s Kevin Cullen in The Boston Globe:

Andy Good, Swartz’s initial lawyer, is ­alternately sad and furious.

“The thing that galls me is that I told Heymann the kid was a suicide risk,” Good told me. “His reaction was a standard reaction in that office, not unique to Steve. He said, ‘Fine, we’ll lock him up.’ I’m not saying they made Aaron kill himself. Aaron might have done this anyway. I’m saying they were aware of the risk, and they were heedless.”


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.


“There was such rigidity with the people we were dealing with,” Peters said. “I couldn’t find anyone in that office to talk about proportionality and humanity. It was driven by a desire to turn this into a significant case, so that some prosecutor could put it in his portfolio.”

Who’s who in the DOJ? The US Attorney charge of the Massachusetts office is Carmen Ortiz; and the prosecutors in this case are Steve Heymann and Scott Garland.

Not going to be such a great portfolio case now, is it?


MIT president Rafael Reif has ordered an investigation. He was not president at the time of Aaron’s arrest; he assumed that post in July 2012.