MIT Releases Report on Aaron Swartz

MIT has released a 182 page report on its actions in the Aaron Swartz case. The website for the documents is here. The President of MIT describes the report as:

...an independent description of the actual events at MIT and of MIT's decisions in the context of what MIT knew as the events unfolded. The report also sets the record straight by dispelling widely circulated myths. For example, it makes clear that MIT did not “target” Aaron Swartz, we did not seek federal prosecution,
punishment or jail time, and we did not oppose a plea bargain.

MIT says it adopted a policy of neutrality. MIT did not say it was opposed to jail time, only that it wasn't seeking it. It rejected his defense team and family's requests to take a position against the prosecution. [More...]

The report finds MIT was never involved in plea negotiations, and was never asked—by either the prosecution or the defense—to approve or disapprove any plea agreement.

It's neutrality position:

MIT’s neutrality position had two dimensions:

1. With regard to substance, MIT would make no statements, whether in support or in opposition, about the government’s decision to prosecute Aaron Swartz, the government’s decisions about charges in an indictment, or any possible plea bargain stances of the prosecution or the defense.

2. With regard to legal procedure, MIT would treat both federal law enforcement and Aaron Swartz’s defense team similarly for the purpose of providing documents and making employees available for interviews ...MIT took no stand on whether there should be prosecution. Similarly, while MIT was not seeking a felony charge, neither was it opposing one. And MIT took no position on any proposed plea bargains. MIT maintained this neutrality position in its response to requests to make public statements or to intercede with the prosecution on behalf of Aaron Swartz(citations omitted.) In each case, MIT was willing to say that it was not advocating prosecution or jail.

History of Plea Offers

According to the USAO, the earliest plea offer made to Aaron Swartz was the following: “a plea of guilty to a single felony count with a recommended sentence of three months imprisonment, to be followed by a period of supervised release the conditions of which included a period in a halfway house, a period of home confinement, and—as is common in computer crime cases—restrictions on his use of computers during the period” of supervision.

According to Andrew Good, the first plea offer made by the U.S from the lead prosecutor before the initial indictment was returned. It included the following: Aaron Swartz would plead guilty to a felony; he would serve 13 months imprisonment; a period of supervisory release would follow the incarceration; and restrictions would be placed on Aaron Swartz’s computer use during the supervisory release. Aaron Swartz rejected this plea offer.

According to Mr. Kettlewell, during a reindictment meeting with at the USAO, a plea offer of six months imprisonment was made. It was rejected.

During the negotiations that followed this rejection, the USAO offered periods of jail time of up to six months, which included additional restrictions similar to the ones already discussed. That is, offers involved a “split sentence” (under which a defendant serves a term of imprisonment followed by a period of community confinement or home detention).

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, there was a period of time after the indictment when the government offered a plea along the following lines: Aaron Swartz would plead guilty; the government would retain the option to ask for jail time of up to six months; and the defense would be free to argue for a no-jail, probationary sentence.

Martin Weinberg and Robert Swartz offered the following clarification of this offer for the Review Panel: Aaron Swartz would have to plead guilty to all four felony counts of the initial indictment; and a period of supervised release would follow any period of incarceration. According to Mr. Weinberg, an alternative plea offer, extended about the same time, would have required Aaron Swartz to waive his right to argue for no jail time, but would have reduced the time sought by the government to four months or less. Both plea offers could have been subject to further negotiations;however, they were rejected by the defense because—under the scope for such negotiations permitted by the USAO—under no circumstances could Aaron Swartz obtain a guarantee of no jail time.

According to Aaron Swartz’s attorneys, at no time did federal prosecutors entertain a plea agreement for him that assured him no jail time, and the prosecutors always insisted on a plea to a felony as opposed to a lesser charge, that is, to a misdemeanor. It was during these discussions, according to Andrew Good, that he informed the lead prosecutor that Aaron Swartz was suicide risk, and the prosecutor responded that the office could have him locked up (presumably to prevent such an occurrence).

Some of the available documents:

< Bradley Manning Verdict: Not Guilty of Aiding Enemy | US to Pay $4 Million to Student for DEA Neglect in Jail >
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  • Display: Sort:
    If JSTOR didn't want a felony conviction (none / 0) (#2)
    by jjr on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 06:51:04 PM EST
    and MIT was neutral, why did the fed prosecutors insist on felonies and jail time? Why not take misdemeanor plea and some form of probation. I really don't understand why they added nine counts to the original four. Swartz never distributed the articles, and he had free access to the articles. Is this just standard procedure for the prosecutors involved?
    My understanding to a multiple count plea is that it might have resulted in a much longer sentence than the agreement. Aren't federal judges supposed to consider sentence guidelines regardless of the plea deal?  

    Heck if I know, (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Zorba on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 07:21:19 PM EST
    But it does seem as though the Feds insisted upon felonies and jail time because........they could.

    It was a political prosecution. (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by redwolf on Wed Jul 31, 2013 at 04:34:34 AM EST
    Swartz helped spearhead the effort to defeat the lasted uber copyrights for big media corporations law and the feds saw a chance for revenge.

    The Prosecutor Was Running for Office (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Aspidistra on Wed Jul 31, 2013 at 03:56:55 PM EST
    Carmen Ortiz was planning to be the next governor of Massachusetts, and the Swartz case fit her plans nicely.  Ironically, it was the exposure of the U.S. Attorney's bullying and vicious behavior that shut down her chances of getting elected.  

    After his suicide.