Law Enforcers Dig Out From Misconduct Cases

A dropped federal corruption probe in New Orleans and $15 million damage award to a New Mexico prisoner this week underscored problems plaguing the nation's law enforcement system.

The public can only hope federal authorities dropped their New Orleans corruption probe of the landfill owner Fred Heebe for the right reasons. That was my response to questions March 8 on the show of WWL AM/FM radio host Don Duboc, left, after he invited my perspective regarding the Justice Department's decision. New Orleans U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and three of his top aides resigned because of disgraceful conduct in their office.

The public does not know whether authorities dropped the investigation of Heebe and other suspects because of lack of evidence, I said on the region's top-rated station. Another possibility, if not liklihood, is that the investigation had revealed many scandals within the U.S. attorneys office that would embarrass officials and thwart prosecution. The show has invited me at least a half dozen times to speak from the perspective of a national legal reform group about the misconduct allegations against federal and local law enforcers in the region.

Meanwhile, Stephen Slevin, shown at right in two photos, accepted a $15.5 million settlement after being held in horrid solitary confinement conditions for two years without trial following his arrest for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Slevin, a former inmate at Dona Ana County Detention Center, agreed to accept one of the largest federal civil rights payouts in history.

My column below examines these two cases along with two other injustices. One was the fatal beating of misdemeanor suspect Jesse Williams Sr. while he was incapacitated in a Mississippi jail. Handcuffs held his hands behind his back and to his feet. This put him into a painful U-shaped position even before he was picked up like a suitcase, dropped to the floor. On camera, jail personnel then repeatedly kicked his face and smashed it on the floor.

The other shocking story focused on a five-year sentence this week for a homeless mother who enrolled her son in a free public pre-school program that his residency status did not entitle him to attend.

These cases can be complex, however. Therefore, no real reform can occur without recognizing that lawbreaking in the community can foster the kinds of indiscriminate reaction among law-enforcers otherwise inexplicable, except on deep analysis or such fictional simplifications as Jack Nicholson's famous portrayal of a Marine base commander in the 1992 movie,

. Here are the four real-life cases, each revealing in its own way:

In New Orleans, WWL reported in Feds drop River Birch investigation how the Justice Department filed on March 8 a motion to dismiss indictments against River Birch-related figures Dominick Fazzio, River Birch CFO, and businessman Mark Titus, a Fazzio business partner who previously pleaded guilty. The paperwork disclosed also that authorities were dropping their long-running probe of Heebe:

'The motion from the U.S. Justice Department doesn't give the reasons for the complete about-face, but it appears to stem from the online commenting scandal that led to four high-profile departures from the top ranks of the U.S. Attorney's office, including longtime U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. The motion, filed late Friday morning, is signed by Jack Smith, chief of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, the office investigating the online commenting scandal. While he was never indicted, Heebe and his team of attorney's went on the offensive in the sprawling investigation against him and ultimately exposed the frequent anonymous online comments by veteran federal prosecutor Sal Perricone and First Assistant Jan Mann, both of whom were forced to resign. Mann's husband, longtime prosecutor Jim Mann, also left the office, but the biggest blow to the office was Letten's resignation amid the internal investigation.

Heebe hired the prominent Washington law firm Williams & Connolly, and undertook an expensive forensic investigation of the U.S. attorney's office to document misconduct by its leaders. Letten resigned last fall after a decade in office. News reports suggest that Heebe now might pursue civil actions to recover attorneys fees. 

In my radio interview, I said the public benefits when the Justice Department, like any of us, concedes a mistake. But disclosures so far give scant indication whether authorities dropped their case because the suspects were innocent of corruption charges, or because authorities wanted to end embarrassment. Either way, I congratulated WWL and the New Orleans Times-Picayune staff for an effective watchdog role in the scandals. 

Eric HolderResponding to a question about unusual factors in the New Orleans cases, I noted that the dismissal of previous guilty pleas contrasted with Alabama jury acquittals last year of all defendants in one of the nation's major public corruption trials of recent years. Following up a witch-hunt by the Bush administration and Republican sttate officials, the Obama Justice Department under the administation of Attorney General Eric Holder, left, had accused advocates of electronic bingo of conspiring to bribe state legislators. The massive bingo prosecution cost state and federal taxpayers an estimated $35 to $50 million, and kept Alabama politics in turmoil for years. To salvage some pride, the government has retained the guilty verdicts of those who pled guilty

In New Mexico, Slevin, 59, is receiving his settlement after filing a federal lawsuit for inhumane treatment at a New Mexico jail from 2005 to 2007. A jury awarded him $22 million because of damages to his mental health and otherwise. News reports described how those 22 months in solitary were "an inhumane and hellish experience for Slevin: His toenails grew so long that they curled around his foot; he was denied showers, causing fungus to form on his skin; and he developed bedsores."

Two other recent cases illustrate other horrible abuses, as well as clues why law enforcement abuses occur.

This week I saw for the first time a videotape of a 2006 fatal beating in a Mississippi jail of Jesse Williams, who had been arrested on disorderly conduct charges. The security cameras showed how one guard kicked Williams in the groin while he followed orders to take off his shoes. Multiple officers then handcuffed him. They totally incapacitated the prisoner with his hands cuffed behind his back. They they beat and kicked him relentlessly on a jail booking room hallway. Other jail personnel passed by with scant apparent interest, as if such attacks on prisoners were routine. 

Local authorities suppressed the evidence despite requests from the local newspaper, the Biloxi-Gulfport Sun-Herald. Ultimately, the U.S. Justice Department brought a civil rights action, resulting in eight guilty pleas from Harrison County personnel and a life sentence for Deputy Ryan Teel, who was convicted at trial. As often the case, the punishment for the defendant going to trial far exceeded the terms for others. A prosecution theme was that he caused the death, although the tape illustrates that others landed serious blows, as well.

Columnist Radley Balko summarized the facts in Jesse Lee Williams, Jr. Balko wrote in 2006: "Sheriff George Payne originally told the media that Williams was under the influence of drugs at time of his beating. That excuse proved difficult to defend when Williams’ post-mortem toxicology report later came back clean. He wasn’t even too drunk to drive. The beating was apparently videotaped by four separate cameras. But six months later, neither the media nor Williams’ estate has been given access to the tapes. None of the officers responsible for Williams’ death have been arrested, though Deputy Ryan Teel, who seems to have been the one who inflicted the most abuse, was finally fired from the police force. Thus far, the more lurid details of Williams’ death have come from nurses on duty at the time in the jail and a taped interview with a man named Paul McBee, who witnessed the beating."

The

is one of the most appalling abuses of its kind you are ever likely to see involving United States law enforcement. Everyone should be aware that such conduct can occur even when, as here, the officers knew that their actions had been recorded -- and knew that multiple previous complaints of brutality had been filed against guards in their facility. 

The big question remains: What else is occurring with the nation's two million prisoners and countless other defendants when there are no cameras or effective oversight? Any problems seemlikely o b ecome worse when states and localities seek to cut costs, including by contracting out prison-keeping to private companies who can claim secrecy because they are private.

In the Mississippi case, the heirs of the victim received a $3.5 million settlement. Yet that kind of redress raises its own problems. My friend George Priest, a conservative-oriented Yale Law School professor, has written persuasively how huge damage awards can be a regressive form of taxation that work to penalize ordinary people -- and often provide little deterrence in reality from abusive conduct because they are so rare.

In this instance, the situation is further complicated by the arrest of Jesse Williams Jr., the victim's heir, on murder charges stemming from an unrelated street killing in 2011. Nothing would remotely justify or mitigate the murder of his father by law enforcement personnel. Yet any reformer needs to take in account the sometimes irrational and violence-prone environments that foster illegal, brutal and otherwise extreme measures by what we call "law-enforcers."

I see at least some parallel in news commentaries this week about the five-year sentence for a Connecticut homeless woman,Tanya McDowell, that overlooked the complexity of her crimes.

She had been arrested last April for sending her 5-year-old son to a Norwalk elementary school when she was homeless for extended periods in the nearby, poverty-stricken city of Bridgeport. She pled guilty, thereby prompting such commentaries as this one in Feministing, Homeless mom sentenced to 5 years in prison for “stealing” son’s education.

Yet the column omitted referrance to McDowell's convictions also for selling crack and marijuana while on probation for the education-larceny arrest. 

Let's stay concerned, outraged, but also fully informed. 

 
 
Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment
 
 

 

Related News Coverage

New Orleans

Jim Letten

WWL Feds drop River Birch investigation, Staff report, March 8, 2013. The federal investigation against target Fred Heebe and River Birch landfill has been abruptly abandoned by the U.S. Attorney's office, according to court documents and multiple sources. The motion, filed late Friday morning, is signed by Jack Smith, chief of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, the office investigating the online commenting scandal. While he was never indicted, Heebe and his team of attorney's went on the offensive in the sprawling investigation against him and ultimately exposed the frequent anonymous online comments by veteran federal prosecutor Sal Perricone and First Assistant Jan Mann, both of whom were forced to resign. Mann's husband, longtime prosecutor Jim Mann, also left the office, but the biggest blow to the office was Letten's resignation amid the internal investigation. 

NOLA.com | New Orleans Times-Picayune, Fred Heebe trying to halt third lawsuit against him, River Birch, Manuel Torres, Nov.  8, 2012. River Birch landfill owner Fred Heebe is asking a federal judge to pause a lawsuit filed by two competitors, arguing that the civil proceeding should take a back seat to the ongoing criminal investigation targeting him and River Birch. Concrete Busters of Louisiana and Waste Remediation of Plaquemines filed the civil suit last year in state court, accusing River Birch and co-owners Heebe and Jim Ward of unfair trade practices and antitrust violations. The plaintiffs amended their suit last month to also allege racketeering violations, including accusations that several former Jefferson Parish officials "accepted bribes" in exchange for supporting a now-defunct garbage deal with the firm. Heebe and Ward have denied they did anything wrong, and they haven't been charged with a crime.

Politico, U.S. Attorney for New Orleans resigns, Josh Gerstein, Dec. 6, 2012.  The top federal prosecutor in New Orleans, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, right, has resigned amidst a controversy over anonymous internet postings by lawyers on his staff.Letten announced his departure during a Thursday morning press conference. "The decision ultimately was mine," Letten said, according to the Associated Press. Attorney General Eric Holder saluted Letten in a statement that noted his long service, but did not refer to the current flap. "As the longest-serving U.S. Attorney in the country today, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the people of his district and the nation by working tirelessly to make their communities safer through reducing violent crime, fighting public corruption and protecting their civil rights," Holder said. "More recently, [Letten] and his office were instrumental in the department's efforts in ensuring that those who exploited the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina were held accountable." 

Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Interim Appointment of Dana J. Boente as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Office of Public Affairs, Dec. 6, 2012. The Department of Justice announced today the interim appointment of Dana J. Boente as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. 

Alabama

Milton McGregorWHNT-TV NEWS 19 of Huntsville, Alabama, The jury has announced verdicts in the state bingo trial, March 7, 2012. The jury found all defendants NOT guilty of all charges. The defendants are Milton McGregor, left, lobbyist Tom Coker, former State Senator Larry Means, Senator Jim Preuitt, Senator Harri Anne Smith and Jay Walker. All are now cleared.

Legal Schnauzer, Alabama's Long Bingo Nightmare Is Over, But We Still Need Accountability, Roger Shuler, March 8, 2012. One of the most embarrassing episodes in the history of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ended yesterday when a federal jury found that all defendants in the Alabama bingo trial were not guilty. The jury clearly reached the correct verdict -- and after two trials and a months-long, anti-bingo crusade led by former Governor Bob Riley -- citizens might be tempted to say, "Whew, thank God that's over." But the public should resist such a response, no matter how understandable it might be. That's because officials who were responsible for bringing this bogus case should be held accountable, either through an internal DOJ investigation or a Congressional review. Better yet, we hope the defendants can uncover some uncomfortable truths, and seek significant damages, with one or more massive lawsuits--perhaps through the civil provisions under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).The feds were not interested in prosecuting crimes; they were interested in prosecuting certain people. That mindset was at the heart of the unlawful Don Siegelman prosecution, and it is forbidden by our constitution.

Florence Times-Daily (Alabama), Millions lost in Alabama gambling trial, Mike Goens, March 11, 2012. Did the guilty get away with it or did another political witch hunt blow up in the faces of those with an agenda? Either way, between 35 million and 40 million of our tax dollars walked out the door Wednesday with the remaining six defendants in a federal gambling corruption trial. All six, as well as fellow defendants who were acquitted in 2011 during the first trial, were found not guilty Wednesday. By the way, some estimate as much as $50 million was spent on investigating and prosecuting the defendants, which included a casino owner, former and current state legislators, lobbyists and others. In trying to answer the question posed above, it seems logical this case is another example of a political witch hunt gone bad....You know, $35 million could pay for a nice prison in a state so financially strapped that many convicts will likely be released early because it cannot afford to house them. Imagine that, building a new prison for real criminals instead of wasting money on a political agenda. Don’t underestimate the financial losses and attacks on personal reputations that defendants suffered in this case. The government doesn’t have to worry about those individuals. Prosecutors can go on to the next case without any financial obligation. It’s unfair at best.

Justice Integrity Project, Alabama Gambling Leader Claims DOJ Misconduct; Top Prosecutor Quits, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 20, 2012.  Facing retrial Jan. 30 on federal corruption charges, Alabama’s top promoter of legalized gambling alleges that the elite Justice Department unit prosecuting him illegally suppressed evidence during his first trial last summer. Meanwhile, that unit’s deputy chief suddenly resigned this month. Victoryland bingo parlor owner Milton McGregor’s willingness to hit back hard at federal prosecutors in this week’s filing could presage even more explosive allegations. Also, the sudden resignation of DOJ’s Public Integrity Section Deputy Chief Justin Shur shortly before his scheduled leadership of the McGregor retrial heightens confusion, at best, within DOJ’s anti-corruption unit. Known by the acronym “PIN,” it is led by Chief John "Jack" Smith.

New Mexico

New York Daily News, Man left in solitary confinement in New Mexico jail for 22 MONTHS after horrific treatment awarded $15.5M, Erik Ortiz, March 7, 2013. The settlement agreement with Stephen Slevin, a former inmate at Dona Ana County Detention Center. Incredibly, Slevin was locked up on a DWI suspicion but never charged. "No amount of money will bring back what they took away from him," said Slevin’s attorney, Matt Coyte. “But it’s nice to be able to get him some money so he can improve where he is in life and move on.”

MSNBC, Man spends 2 years in solitary after DWI arrest, Elizabeth Chuck, Jan. 25, 2012 (Video). A New Mexico man who said he was forced to pull his own tooth while in solitary confinement because he was denied access to a dentist has been awarded $22 million due to inhumane treatment by New Mexico's Dona Ana County Jail. Stephen Slevin was arrested in August of 2005 for driving while intoxicated, then thrown in jail for two years. He was in solitary at Dona Ana County Jail for his entire sentence and basically forgotten about and never given a trial, he told NBC station KOB.com Tuesday night. "[Jail guards were] walking by me every day, watching me deteriorate," Slevin said. "Day after day after day, they did nothing, nothing at all, to get me any help."  Slevin's medical problems extended beyond his dental issues, said Slevin, shown in two photos above right. His toenails started curling around his foot because they were so long, he told KOB.com. And his countless requests to see a doctor for depression medication were ignored, he said.  He said his lawsuit "has never been about the money. I've always wanted this to make a statement." The $22 million, awarded by a federal jury Tuesday, is one of the largest prisoner civil rights settlements in U.S. history, according to KOB.com.

Mississippi

The Agitator, Jesse Lee Williams, Jr., Radley Balko, August 2, 2006. Here’s another one for Justice Scalia’s files on “the new police professionalism.” Jesse Lee Williams, Jr. was apparently beaten to death last February by sheriff’s department officials in Harrison County, Mississippi. I’m not sure why he was originally arrested — what I’ve found thus far only mentions “misdemeanors.”

Yahoo Voices, Former Corrections Officer Ryan Michael Teel Faces Life in Prison in the Beating Death of an Inmate, Regina Sass, Aug. 20, 2007. The Justice Department has announced that a former Mississippi corrections officer, Ryan Michael Teel, has been sentenced for abusing inmates at the Harrison County Adult Detention Center in Gulfport, Mississippi. His trial lasted two weeks, and there was testimony from many other officers, among them some who had already pleaded guilty to similar crimes. In their testimony, they stated that Teel was a ringleader in an organized conspiracy the aim of which was to physically abuse the inmates in their care. The testimony showed that Teel created an atmosphere of violence at the jail. The place where it was most prevalent was the booking area, which is the first place an inmate comes to when he is being processed into the facility.

WLOX-TV (Biloxi), Former Jailer Ryan Teel Sentenced To Life In Prison, Staff report, Nov. 1, 2007. After a three-hour sentencing hearing in federal court, Judge Louis Guirola sentenced former Harrison County jailer Ryan Teel to a term of life in prison for the beating death of inmate Jesse Lee Williams, Jr. in February 2006. Teel was convicted of civil rights violations and using excessive force against Williams. He was found guilty after a week-long trial in August. The actual sentence was two life terms on the first two counts and 20 years in prison on count three.

Biloxi Sun Herald,

, and witnessed by other jail employees, medical personnel and inmates. Yet a code of what amounts to official silence involving the U.S. Attorney, the local district attorney and the Sheriff of Harrison County continues to leave the people of South Mississippi in the dark about this case where justice delayed seems to spotlight the notion of justice denied. How much investigation is necessary to conclude that a crime may have been committed? How many times must the video be viewed, how many times must the witnesses be interviewed or their words evaluated to determine whether murder most foul took place in the Harrison County jail? 

Biloxi Sun Herald, Murder suspects to turn themselves in, Robin Fitzgerald, June 6, 2011. Two cousins wanted in a shooting that turned deadly on Friday are expected to turn themselves in today, a Gulfport attorney said. Anthony Joseph Williams, 25, and Jessie Lee Williams Jr., 18, are wanted on charges of murder and two counts of aggravated assault in a shooting that killed 23-year-old Melvin Presley and wounded two other men on 32nd Avenue. Jessie Williams' father, known by the same name, was beaten to death by guards at the Harrison County jail in 2006. The slaying resulted in the settlement of a $3.5 million lawsuit for the father's estate and a federal criminal case with related convictions including murder and deprivation of civil rights under color of law.

Biloxi Sun Herald, Slain Harrison County inmate's son going to prison for unrelated crimes, Robin Fitzgerald, Oct. 5, 2012. A teenage son of the Harrison County jail inmate beaten to death by jailers six years ago has been sentenced to prison for unrelated crimes. Jessie Lee Williams Jr., 19, pleaded guilty Friday to accessory after the fact in the murder of Melvin Presley and a separate charge of possession of a stolen firearm. Williams uses the same name as his father.
His father was beaten until he was brain dead Feb. 4, 2006, in an unprovoked assault by jailers, and was tortured. Editor's Note: WLOX reported of the case: "His father was killed by a jailer while he was an inmate at the Harrison County jail. Now, Jessie Lee Williams, Junior will spend the next few years of his life in that same jail. District Attorney Joel Smith tells us the 19-year-old pleaded guilty Friday to accessory after the fact to the murder of Melvin Presley. He also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of possession of a stolen firearm. Williams admitted he was involved in a deadly shooting on 32nd Avenue in Gulfport that killed Presley and injured two others in June of last year."

Connecticut

Stamford Advocate, 5 years in prison for Tanya McDowell, John Nickerson, Feb. 22, 2012. Tanya McDowell, the Bridgeport mom arrested last April for sending her 5-year-old son to a Norwalk elementary school and while out on bond was picked up for selling drugs to undercover officers five times, was sentenced to five years in prison and another five years of probation after pleading guilty to drug and larceny charges Wednesday. McDowell, 34, wearing leg shackles, handcuffs and a large light gray sweatsuit, quietly made her pleas at state Superior Court in Norwalk. In April of last year, McDowell received national sympathy from education advocates after Norwalk police arrested her for sending her son to Brookside Elementary School in Norwalk while they alleged that she was really living in Bridgeport. McDowell claimed that she was homeless at the time -- spending many nights in her van -- and wanted a good education for her son, A.J., while she was working in Stamford. Several weeks later, she was arrested for selling drugs to Norwalk undercover officers on five occasions in Norwalk and Bridgeport. When she was picked up on the drug charges, police found her in front of Brookside Elementary School holding 30 small bags of marijuana and 23 small bags of crack cocaine, prosecutor Tiffany Lockshier said during her sentencing hearing. In Bridgeport, McDowell pleaded guilty earlier this month to two counts of sale of narcotics to undercover officers in Bridgeport and when she is sentenced on March 27, faces up to five years in jail for those convictions.As part of the plea bargain, McDowell will be able to serve the sentences from Norwalk and Bridgeport concurrently.

Feministing, Homeless mom sentenced to 5 years in prison for “stealing” son’s education, Lori, Feb. 28, 2012. A mother has been arrested and sentenced to jail time for sending her five year old son to a school district where she had no permanent residence. I can barely believe I’m having to type this sentence again. In a post just last year, I wrote about a woman in Ohio who was convicted of lying about where she lived in order to get her daughters into a better school district and was sentenced to 10 days in county jail, three years of probation, community service, and payment of up to $30,000 in back tuition she could be required to pay the school. At the time, I (morbidly) joked that I’m surprised they didn’t hit her with life in prison and tattoo “Thug Life” on her upper stomach. Now, a year later, the same twisted logic and interpersonal and systemic racism has landed another mother in jail for the simple “crime” of wanting her child to access public education. Tanya McDowell was living as a homeless woman when she was arrested for sending her five year old son to a school district where she -- surprise -- didn’t have a permanent residence. Ms. McDowell has said that she only wanted a better education for her child.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Rand Paul Filibuster on Drones

Newsmax, GOP Must Build on Paul's Filibuster, David Limbaugh, March 11, 2013. The Republicans had better not squander the good will that Sen. Rand Paul, left, purchased for them in his filibuster over the Obama administration's potential use of armed drones to kill non-enemy combatants in America. I am not simply referring to the constitutional issue of whether the president can engage in such acts, though that's very important. I believe the significance of Paul's filibuster transcends the drone issue. It was about challenging the administration's lawlessness and accountability across the board and his runaway spending and statism. It was about championing freedom, God-given rights, and the Constitution.

TechNews Daily/Yahoo News, Drones Large and Small Coming to US, Jeremy Hsu, Feb. 20, 2013. Most of the drones that have begun to appear in the skies above the U.S. homeland don't resemble the Predators or Reapers flown by the U.S. military and CIA above Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead, these smaller versions of flying, unmanned vehicles almost rival the animal kingdom in their diversity. Government agencies such as NASA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection operate aircraft-size military drones that take off from runways like airplanes. Labs in the United States have even built tiny drones that look like hummingbirds. But most drones resemble the radio-controlled aircraft and toy helicopters flown by hobbyists for decades, capable of taking off horizontally, vertically or by being thrown into the air like a trained falcon or hawk. Some U.S. states have begun considering drones for checking on highway traffic conditions, inspecting bridges and fighting wildfires. U.S. corporations, such as FedEx, have already begun planning for the day when drones could deliver packages.

FireDogLake, Attorney General Holder Claims Aaron Swartz Prosecution Was ‘Good Use of Prosecutorial Discretion,’ DS Wright, March 7, 2013. It seems we got our White House response to the 50,000+ signed remove Carmen Ortiz petition. Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate yesterday that the Aaron Swartz prosecution was a good idea. Senator Jon Cornyn asked: “Does it strike you as 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 3- or 4-month prison sentence?” Holder responded: “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. And I think what those prosecutors did in offering 3, 4, zero to 6 was consistent with, with that conduct.” 

The whole process bore a striking resemblance to what the mafia does when they extort money from small businesspeople. They arrive at the person’s shop for the first time and say the owner forgot to pay them protection money. “Hey we could break you leg but instead we’ll simply take 10% of the gross.” The government charges Swartz, right, under an absurd interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, then says “Hey we could send you to prison for 35 years but instead we’ll simply take a 6 month sentence.” Department of Justice officials even told Congress that by the end that the only reason the odious charges against Swartz would not be dropped was because it would be embarrassing. Some congressional staffers left the briefing with the impression that prosecutors believed they needed to convict Swartz of a felony that would put him in jail for a short sentence in order to justify bringing the charges in the first place, according to two aides with knowledge of the briefing.

 

Visit this month's complete JIP news reports file, searchable file by date