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letters | RECONSIDERING NUANCES IN THE AARON SWARTZ CASE

Core principle forgotten in this case: sensitivity in punishment

Roy Singham, Founder and chairman of Freedom to Connect speaks during the memorial service for Aaron Swartz, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 in New York. Friends and supporters of Swartz paid tribute Saturday to the free-information activist and online prodigy, who killed himself last week as he faced trial on hacking charges. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

AP

Roy Singham, Founder and chairman of Freedom to Connect speaks during the memorial service for Aaron Swartz, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 in New York. Friends and supporters of Swartz paid tribute Saturday to the free-information activist and online prodigy, who killed himself last week as he faced trial on hacking charges. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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.

Bruce Macdonald

Billerica

The writer is a criminal defense attorney.

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