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The Boston Globe



Core principle forgotten in this case: sensitivity in punishment

I have to differ with the “bottom line” of one of your readers, Philip Kalinowsky (“Swartz was not above the law,” Letters, Jan. 22), when, in regard to Aaron Swartz, he quotes an old maxim of seasoned criminals: “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” I have no doubt that this young man, who was feeling the full and oppressive weight of federal prosecutors, would have received much fairer treatment from any of the judges in the US District Court in Boston who, by and large, try to fashion sentences that adhere to a core principle, as announced by the Supreme Court, that sentencing judges “must consider every convicted person as an individual and every case as a unique study in the human failings that sometimes mitigate, sometimes magnify, the crime and the punishment to ensue.”

Sadly, in her zeal, the US attorney ignored another maxim that is central to the criminal justice system: The punishment must not only fit the crime but also the defendant.

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