Internet Activist Group Seeks Justice for Swartz

Web community may have found next SOPA moment

With the suicide of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, the Internet community may have found its next SOPA moment. But this time, instead of working to stop legislation, the focus is on advocating congressional action to change laws that the group and Aaron's family believe led to Swartz's death.

Demand Progress, the Internet advocacy group Swartz co-founded to stop SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), is rallying its followers to support "Aaron's Law," a bill that Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) plans to introduce that would amend, by decriminalizing, certain violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If convicted, the Internet activist could have faced up to 35 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

The group is also supporting Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who is opening an investigation into possible prosecutorial abuse in the case against Swartz, and urging other lawmakers to expand the inquiry into the "overprosecution of victimless alleged crime."

"We're asking [lawmakers] to help rein in a criminal justice system run amok," Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, who had represented Swartz, wrote in an open letter on Demand Progress' website. 

On the website, Demand Progress followers can sign their name to a letter, which will be sent to their congressional representative.

Attorney Carmen Ortiz, the prosecutor in Swartz's case who has taken a beating in the press, defended the actions of her office late Wednesday as "appropriate." 

Ortiz said it was highly unlikely that Swartz would have faced the maximum penalty. "The prosecutors recognized that there was no evidence against Mr. Swartz indicating that he committed his acts for personal financial gain, and they recognized that his conduct—while a violation of the law—did not warrant the severe punishments authorized by Congress and called for by the sentencing guidelines in appropriate cases," Ortiz said. "That is why in the discussions with his counsel about a resolution of the case, this office sought an appropriate sentence that matched the alleged conduct—a sentence that we would recommend to the judge of six months in a low security setting. While at the same time, his defense counsel would have been free to recommend a sentence of probation."

On Friday, Internet activists will celebrate Internet Freedom Day, the one-year anniversary of shutting down SOPA in Congress by organizing the biggest blackout of Internet sites in U.S. history and flooding Congress with phone calls and letters.