THE CASE of Aaron Swartz, the tech genius and Internet activist who committed suicide amid his criminal prosecution, is under a protective order that keeps all case information secret. Ryan Grimm of Huffington Post has a new report that uncovered some interesting developments that happened back in January.
Aaron Swartz lawyers have accused Prosecutor Stephen Heymann of misconduct. Attorney General Eric Holder has defended the Swartz case actions, slamming the media, saying it’s a “good use of prosecutorial discretion.” However, the more than comes out the worse Holder and the DOJ look.
Federal prosecutor Stephen Heymann engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by withholding key evidence from the defense team of Aaron Swartz, the late Internet activist’s legal team alleged in a letter to an internal Justice Department ethics unit.
Heymann took the lead in the much-criticized effort to imprison Swartz, who committed suicide in January, and was the attorney who handled the case on a day-to-day basis, reporting to U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. Swartz’ attorney Eliot Peters has filed a complaint with the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility, a step that indicates just how egregious the defense team considers Heymann’s professional behavior. A redacted version of the letter was obtained by The Huffington Post.
More from Grimm’s report:
Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder was asked by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) whether the “prosecutorial zeal and, I would say, even misconduct” was an attempt to “bully” Swartz into pleading guilty.
Holder responded by criticizing the media for citing the lengthy prison sentence that conviction could have earned Swartz, but did not mention that his own prosecutors told the press that precise thing. “If convicted on these charges, SWARTZ faces up to 35 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and a fine of up to $1 million,” the DOJ said in a press release boasting of Swartz’ indictment.
One of the charges against Heymann stems from a December 2012 status conference to determine whether or not the judge should hear the defense’s argument that evidence gleaned from Swartz’ laptop and thumb drive should be suppressed for lack of a proper warrant. The judge agreed to hold a hearing in January. After the meeting, according to Peters and other witnesses, Heymann handed him a packet of documents relevant to the hearing — including the email containing the potentially exculpatory evidence. He was furious that it had been withheld.