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This from Mr. Lessig's blog.  Surprising how much he speaks for me and I suspect so many of us around here:

A time for silence

A week ago today, Aaron gave up. And since I received the call late Friday night telling me that, like so many others who were close to him, I have not rested. Not slept, really. Not connected with my kids, at all. Not held my wife except to comfort her tears, or for her to comfort mine.

Instead of rest, I have been frantically trying to explain, to connect, and to make sense of all of this. Endless emails responding to incredible kindness, phone call after phone call with reporters and friends, and the only solace I know: writing.

But none of that has made this better. Indeed, with every exchange, it only gets worse. I understand it less. I am angry more. I think of yet another, “If only I had …”

I need to step back from this for now. I am grateful for your kind emails. I am sorry if I can’t answer them. To the scores of people who write to tell me they were wronged by US Attorney Ortiz, I am sorry, that is not my fight. To the press — especially the press wanting “just five minutes” — I apologize. This isn’t a “just five minutes” story, at least from me.

There have been a handful of smiles this past week. My three year old, Tess, putting her arms around my neck, holding me as tight as she possibly could, promising me “the doctors will put him back together, papa, they will.” A screenwriter friend, grabbing me after a talk in New York, and pulling me into an argument about his next great film. And best of all, the astonishingly beautiful letter from MIT’s president, acknowledging — amazingly — at least the possibility of responsibility, and appointing the very best soul on that side of Cambridge to review and guide that great if flawed institution’s review.

But these smiles have been drowned by endless sadness, and even greater disappointment — and none more pronounced than the utterly profound disappointment in our government, Carmen Ortiz in particular.

I hate my perpetual optimism about our government. Aaron was buried on the tenth anniversary of the time that optimism bit me hardest — Eldred v. Ashcroft. But how many other examples are there, and why don’t I ever learn? The dumbest-fucking-naive-allegedly-smart person you will ever know: that guy thought this tragedy would at least shake for one second the facade of certainty that is our government, and allow at least a tiny light of recognition to shine through, and in that tiny ray, maybe a question, a pause, a moment of “ok, we need to look at this carefully.” I wasn’t dumb enough to believe that Ortiz could achieve the grace of Reif. But the single gift I wanted was at least a clumsy, hesitating, “we’re going to look at this carefully, and think about whether mistakes might have been made.”

But oh Lucy, you’ve done it again.

Ortiz’s statement is a template for all that is awful in what we as a political culture have become. And it pushes me — me, the most conventional, wanting-to-believe-in-all-things-patriotic, former teenage Republican from the home of Little League baseball — to a place far more radical than I ever want to be. Ortiz wrote:

As a parent and a sister, I can only imagine the pain felt by the family and friends of Aaron Swartz,

Yes, Ms. Ortiz, you obviously can “only imagine.” Because if you felt it, as obviously as Reif did, it would move you first to listen, and then to think. You’re so keen to prove that you understand this case better than your press releases about Aaron’s “crime” (those issued when Aaron still drew breath) made it seem (“the prosecutors recognized that there was no evidence against Mr. Swartz indicating that he committed his acts for personal financial gain”). But if your prosecutors recognized this, then this is the question to answer:

Why was he being charged with 13 felonies?

His motive was political — obviously. His harm was exactly none — as JSTOR effectively acknowledged. But he deserved, your “career prosecutors” believed, to be deprived of his rights as a citizen (aka, a “felon,” no longer entitled to the political rights he fought to perfect) because of what he did.

Yet here’s the thing to remember on MLK weekend (even though my saying this violates a rule I believe in firmly, a kind of inverse to Godwin’s law, because though I believe these two great souls were motivated by exactly the same kind of justice, King’s cause was greater): How many felonies was Martin Luther King, Jr., convicted of? King, whose motives were political too, but who, unlike Aaron, triggered actions which caused real harm. What’s that number?


And how many was he even charged with in the whole of his career?

Two. Two bogus charges (perjury and tax evasion) from Alabama, which an all-white jury acquitted him of.

This is a measure of who we have become. And we don’t even notice it. We can’t even see the extremism that we have allowed to creep into our law. And we treat as decent a government official who invokes her family while defending behavior which in part at least drove this boy to his death.

I still dream. It is something that Darrell Issa and Zoe Lofgren are thinking along the same lines. On this anniversary of the success of the campaign to stop SOPA — a campaign which Aaron helped architect — maybe I’m right to be hopeful that even this Congress might do something. We’ll see. Maybe they’ll surprise us. Maybe.

But for now, I need to step away. I apologize for the silence. I am sorry for the replies I will not give. Aaron was wrong about very few things, but he was wrong to take his life. I have to return to mine, and to the amazingly beautiful creatures who are trying to pull me back.

I will always love you, sweet boy. Please find the peace you were seeking. And if you do, please find a way to share that too.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (27+ / 0-)

    "To recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government." Historian Barbara Tuchman

    by Publius2008 on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 11:32:46 AM PST

  •  He's wrong (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, PhilJD, rubyr
    To the scores of people who write to tell me they were wronged by US Attorney Ortiz, I am sorry, that is not my fight.
    And this attitude is why another Aaron Swartz is destined to happen again.  

    I'm not insulting his grief or really even trying to criticize him.  But thousands of nameless people paved the way for Swartz, and a thousand more nameless people will come after him.  

    Why do we only care when a smart, young, white person is railroaded?  Perhaps if someone had stood up for all those blacks and hispanics locked in America's gulag, they wouldn't be coming for you now...

       First they came for the communists,
        and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

        Then they came for the socialists,
        and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

        Then they came for the trade unionists,
        and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

        Then they came for me,
        and there was no one left to speak for me.

    •  Or he just lost a good friend... (13+ / 0-)

      And hasn't had a chance to grieve yet while everybody is looking to him to be their champion of this cause.  

      "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness" -Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)

      by Jacoby Jonze on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 12:20:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I had a similar thought (10+ / 0-)

      but I know it's the overwhelming grief speaking.  He needs a break.  I don't think he will give up this fight.  I don't think his friends will let him.  He's got not only the grief to deal with but he's also carrying a lot of guilt that he'll need some help getting rid of, that he shouldn't be taking upon himself.  

      "Justice is a commodity"

      by joanneleon on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 12:33:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wasn't trying to admonish him (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Chi, PhilJD, joanneleon, ProvokingMeaning

        and i believe he will continue fighting for what he believes.  I just thought that line stuck out like a sore thumb.  I wish he hadn't published it.  Of course he can't possibly take on all the cases that are sent to him concerning Ortiz.  No one would expect him too.  But my question is - what is his fight?  

        To rail against this prosecutor about this specific cases misses a much larger point in my opinion.  The truth is Swartz wasn't singled out - he was treated like everyone else.  Ortiz doesn't feel she did anything wrong because everyone around her has made a career of doing exactly what she did.  Overcharging is a hallmark of state and federal prosecutions, whether it be for hackers, drug dealers, whistleblowers or shoplifting. And that is everyone's problem.

        I'm glad Swartz's death had shed some light on this issue.  But if we hide away in our grief or treat this like an isolated incident, than we don't do any service to his death.  

        •  It might not seem like it (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          PhilJD, Agathena, Just Bob

          but there are a lot of people focused on that too. That's why I am not as enthusiastic about the Aaron's law initiative as I am about going after the broader problem of abuse of prosecutorial power.

          I know it happens all the time and that most of the people it happens to are nameless and they powerlessly take the plea deals, get caught up in becoming informers, or if they plead not guilty they end up with horrendous sentencing.  

          For the record, Marcy Wheeler is trying to urge this movement  that is forming to take on the problem of prosecution and not to stick with a narrow goal of changing the definition of a term in a law.

          Here are a couple of links:

          What to Do about Computer Crime Laws

          In a long piece published in AlterNet on Tuesday, I noted that Aaron Swartz’ treatment was not all that unusual. [...]]

          The Prosecution of Aaron Swartz Paints Obama's Justice Department as Needlessly Cruel and Capricious

          In some ways, what was happening to Swartz was not all that unusual. George Washington University Law Professor Orin Kerr -- a leading expert on computer crime law who is sympathetic to the issues Swartz championed -- explains that the government’s charges fall within the norm for computer crimes. Moreover, the tactics used in this case are normal for the Department of Justice. The government often multiplies charges in order to coerce defendants to plead guilty without a trial.

          And this isn't just a fad for Wheeler.  She addresses the inequity of the rule of law, in the way that prosecutors choose to enforce it, all the time.  So do a lot of people, all the time.  I know that in small ways I bring this up all the time and use the contrast of how bankers and torturers walk away scot free while the "little guys" get piled on.  The system has become horrendous. I'm sure it always was horrendous. But it seems particularly horrendous right now.

          You should be doing more about it too, writing more, whatever it is that you personally are able to do in your own way. We all should.  But where do you find a toehold to make some progress?  You grab onto cases like this when they are getting a lot of attention and you try to broaden the discussion, IMHO.

          "Justice is a commodity"

          by joanneleon on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 01:37:06 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The other people who were wronged (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilJD, joe shikspack, poco

    by Ortiz -- I do hope that Lessig collects that contact information and passes it on to Issa and to some activists.  

    They could be a key part of building a body of information that supports the call to fire Ortiz and/or Heymann, at the very least, and then to take this further to try to do something to stop the prosecutorial abuse in general. Something... any kind of progress.  Because we know that Aaron is not the only one who has been a victim of that.  

    Again, I think some friends who are under a little less pressure now will help Lessig sort that out.  I hope so anyway. He doesn't have to handle all of this alone.

    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 12:44:44 PM PST

    •  In some countries plea bargaining is ILLEGAL (4+ / 0-)

      Maybe we need to outlaw it too. We certainly need a TOTAL overhaul of our for-profit prison-industrial-legal complex.

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 01:02:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If they had to hold trials (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PhilJD, Algernons Labyrinth, Just Bob

        for all the people hounded and arrested by this police/prison state, they'd overwhelm the system, I guess.  The courts couldn't handle it.  And life is a lot easier for the prosecutor if they cut a plea deal.  Meanwhile they keep piling more and more people into our increasingly for-profit prisons.  

        That is the thing that should be outlawed -- allowing profit taking in the prison business.  It's despicable.

        I agree with you on the need for a total overhaul and it can't happen soon enough.  The more entrenched the for-profit businesses get, the harder it will be to change anything.

        "Justice is a commodity"

        by joanneleon on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 01:43:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Eric Holder should ask for Ms. Ortiz's resignation (4+ / 0-)

    and issue a strong, unambiguous statement that this sort of prosecutorial overreach will no longer be tolerated as business as usual.

    When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill...

    by PhilJD on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 01:41:05 PM PST

  •  I have read just about everything available (6+ / 0-)

    about this entire sad story.

    THIS Aaron Swartz and the Corrupt Practice of Plea Bargaining made the deepest impression on me and I think reveals what is at the heart of what happened to Aaron Swartz and what is the biggest cancer in our justice system.

    The practice of plea bargains as they are currently done makes the prosecutor basically a God who determines not just the Crime but also the Punishment and provides them with a cudgel of impossible size to wield over anyone accused of a crime.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 01:54:59 PM PST

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