The notoriously harsh prosecutor who insisted on jail time for Aaron Swartz may have withheld evidence, according to a letter filed by Swartz's legal team, making the villain of an emotional trial and even more emotional suicide sound perhaps more villainous than before. In the letter, obtained by the Huffington Post, the defense alleges that Stephen Haymann—who when told about Swartz's suicide case replied, "Fine, we'll lock him up"—"failed timely to disclose exculpatory evidence relevant to Mr. Swartz's pending motion to suppress." Since Swartz's suicide in January, his defenders have said the prosecution, and Haymann in particular, pushed for sentences that were too harsh in the JSTOR hacking case against him at MIT, all while dismissing Swartz's mental state. Now it appears the man at the center of that push... may have pushed even harder.
In the letter, the defense alleges that Haymann "misrepresented to the Court the extent of the federal government's involvement in the investigation into Mr. Swartz's conduct prior to the application for certain search warrants." The defense has claimed many times that the prosecution wanted to make out Swartz to be a big-time wanted hacker, despite Swartz having shifted his career primarily from coding to political activism. "He was being made into a highly visible lesson," said one attorney. Another called his case just the "juicy looking computer crime case" this group of prosecutors was looking for to lift their profiles and careers. This suggests Haymann suppressed evidence in order to make his point, according to the defense.
The letter, filed a few weeks after Swartz's death, also brings up another much talked about problem with the case, according to the late hacker's supporters. The defense alleges Haymann "abused his discretion when he attempted to coerce Mr. Swartz into foregoing his right to a trial by pleading guilty." Following his death, supporters of the beloved hacker have argued that the prosecution used plea bargains in an attempt to force Swartz to go to jail for a crime—downloading a bunch of old academic files off open MIT servers—that didn't fit such a harsh punishment. While the other side of the emotional and ongoing battle have maintained that it's all part of the legal process, the defense argues that Haymann went beyond his obligations.
Although the case has been dropped, the letter urges the Office of Professional Responsibility to "look into Haymann's conduct."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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