Friday, January 25, 2013

Revealed: Aaron Swartz prosecutor 'drove another hacker to suicide in 2008 after he named him in a cyber crime case'

The prosecutor who is being accused of acting 'over zealously' in his pursuit of online pioneer Aaron Swartz, who killed himself at the weekend, played a role in another young hacker's suicide in 2008, it was claimed today.

Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Heymann had reportedly been insisting on jail time for Swartz and was refusing to negotiate a plea deal on the 30 years in jail he faced for stealing academic papers.

In 2008, another young hacker also committed suicide after being named in a case Heymann was leading.

Jonathan James killed himself aged 24 two weeks after the Secret Service raided his house as part of its investigation into the TJX Hacker case - which is known as the largest identity hack in history.

His friend Christopher Scott was charged with breaching retail networks, and James was reportedly the co-conspirator 'J.J.' mentioned in the indictment.

James said he had nothing to do with the retail hack but believed that the feds would try to pin it on him, according to Buzz Feed.

In his suicide note, James said he had no faith in the justice system, which he believed were trying to tie him to a crime he did not commit.

'I have no faith in the "justice" system. Perhaps my actions today, and this letter, will send a stronger message to the public.

'Either way, I have lost control over this situation, and this is my only way to regain control. 'Remember, it's not whether you win or lose, it's whether I win or lose, and sitting in jail for 20, ten, or even five years for a crime I didn't commit is not me winning. I die free.'

James was the first juvenile put into confinement for a federal cyber crime case.

Aaron Swartz was charged last September with wire fraud, computer fraud and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer after he allegedly tried to steal millions of scholarly papers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in January 2011.

It is thought that the stress and strain of the looming federal trial contributed to the depression which is being blamed for Swartz taking his own life on January 11 at his Brooklyn, New York apartment.

Swartz's lawyer had originally approached federal prosecutors in fall 2012 about a deal and was turned down even though JSTOR - the online database Swarts hacked into - declined to pursue charges.

His friends have accused Heymann of contributing to Swartz's suicide, with his unwillingness to compromise on his prosecution.

'Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,' his family said in a statement.

'Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death.'

Speaking to Huffington Post yesterday, Swartz's attorney Elliot Peters accused Massachusetts assistant U.S. attorney Stephen Heymann of pursuing federal charges against Swartz to gain publicity.

He said Heymann was looking for 'some juicy looking computer crime cases and Aaron's case, sadly for Aaron, fit the bill. He thought he was going to receive press and he was going to be a tough guy and read his name in the newspaper.'

Peters said Heymann was threatening Swartz with potentially longer prison sentences if Swartz didn't accept his plea deal offers.

'He was very intransigent,' Peters said of Heymann. 'It was his philosophy that as you got closer to trial the plea offers only got worse. But the offer he was making was so unreasonable that having it get worse didn't concern me much.'

Heymann did not respond to requests for comment.

Original report here

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