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Franken: Swartz Prosecution 'Remarkably Aggressive'

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has joined other legislators in
questioning the severity of the charges lodged by the government against Aaron
Swartz, the Internet activist who died of an apparent suicide Jan. 11 while
awaiting trial on multiple felony charges for allegedly using MIT computers to
illegally download scientific journals (a reported 4.8 million documents) from
a subscription site.

"There may be disagreement on the exact merits of the
case against [Swartz]," wrote Franken, "but charging a young man like
Mr. Swartz with federal offenses punishable by over 35 years of federal
imprisonment seems remarkably aggressive, particularly when it appears that one
of the principal aggrieved parties...did not support a criminal

a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder,
Franken said he wanted to
associate himself with the request of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of
the Senate Judiciary Committee, back in January that Justice answer a number of
questions regarding the Swartz prosecution, including whether prior
investigations of Swartz played a role in the decision to charge him -- Swartz
had led an online protest against antipiracy legislation -- why the Department
filed a superseding indictment with even more charges, whether there was
consideration to the proportionality of the potential penalties to the alleged
conduct and whether the department was trying to "make an example" of

Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform, and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) alsoasked the Justice Department to justify bringing criminal charges against

In a Senate oversight hearing March 6, Sen.
Cornyn asked Holder whether he thought it was "odd" that the
government "would indict someone for crimes that would carry penalties of
up to 35 years in prison and million dollar fines, and then offer him a three
or four month prison sentence" Holder said he thought it was a "good
use of prosecutorial discretion," and said the case was not one of
"prosecutorial overreach or misconduct."