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Faced with a choice of 6 months or 30 years, the six months would be the pragmatic choice, but it is tantamount to extortion.

It's civil disobedience. Accepting six months as a prisoner of conscience would have done about as much good for what Swartz believed in than whatever else he was hoping to accomplish. It would have been a sacrifice, but not one worse than death.

How can you be a prisoner of conscience when plea bargain requires that you admit your guilt?

Pleading guilty doesn't signify anything other than admitting that you are guilty of breaking the law. It doesn't signify that you agree that the law itself is just. Thoreau said, "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

Do you know if six months was the only condition of the plea?

I don't. In fact, the fact that Swartz committed suicide indicates either that the deal on the table wasn't just a six month deal, or that Swartz was, psychologically, in an extraordinarily bad place. It's hard to fathom the idea someone would commit suicide over federal charges when they had the option of taking six months at Club Fed.

Being punished for willfully breaking the law, whatever your reasons, is not extortion.

It well is if it is over punishment and this case is a clear cut. Pure bullying.

Maybe it's a side effect of plea bargaining. Prosecutors have to push for the highest sentence imaginable to get a strong negotiating position. This is a bigger problem than Carmen Ortiz.

Incidentally, this also affects the idea that they should have gone easy on Swartz because of his history of depression and suicidal ideation, because then that becomes a tool for negotiating leverage as well.

But when the root cause is the systemic effect of plea bargaining on the justice system as a whole, it becomes difficult to find good solutions, and obvious that whatever the solution is, it will be very hard to implement. But our outrage compels us to demand something to be done right now, so let's just designate a scapegoat.

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