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Cornyn Questions Holder on Alleged Hacking Case

By Lisa Barron   |  

Attorney General Eric Holder came under fire Wednesday for the government's prosecution of alleged computer hacker Aaron Swartz for copying files from a subscription database at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Swartz, 26, committed suicide in January and his supporters blame his death on what they describe as Justice Department prosecutorial misconduct, according to Politico.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. John Cornyn suggested the same thing, citing the 13 felony counts against Swartz for wire fraud, computer fraud, illegally accessing a computer, and recklessly damaging a computer, as a case of overreach.

Swartz, one of the creators of Reddit and an active campaigner against federal anti-web piracy laws, allegedly installed a laptop in a closet at MIT. Holder defended the case built against him, and noted that prosecutors had repeatedly offered a short jail term to Swartz in exchange for a guilty plea, Politico reported.

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“Does it strike you as odd 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?” Cornyn, a Texas Republican, reportedly asked Holder.

According to Politico, Holder replied, “I think that’s a good use of prosecutorial discretion — to look at the conduct, regardless of what the statutory maximums were, and to fashion a sentence that was consistent with what the nature of the conduct was.”

Cornyn, a former attorney general, later told Holder that it looked more like a case of the government trying “to bully someone into pleading guilty to something that strikes me as rather minor.”

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Attorney General Eric Holder came under fire Wednesday for the government's prosecution of alleged computer hacker Aaron Swartz for copying files from a subscription database at MIT. Swartz killed himself in January.
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