US attorney’s notion that ‘stealing is stealing’ is senseless

Joan Vennochi may have found a law professor who thinks the charges “were pretty much what any good federal prosecutor would have charged” (“Swartz case is sad, but not an overreach,” Op-ed, Jan. 17), but we agree with the outpouring of comments by law professors with an opposing view.

In a legalistically senseless assertion, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s declaration that “stealing is stealing” declines to differentiate between cases where personal gain is the motive and cases such as Aaron Swartz’s, where there was no profit motive and where the alleged victim did not want charges pursued. By her reasoning, we guess Ortiz would also wipe away first, second, and third degrees of murder in favor of a similar one-murder-category-fits-all philosophy.

Swartz’s alleged crimes are not dissimilar to acts committed in the past by other computer prodigies who have gone on to spearhead advances in technology and policy that benefit us all.


We don’t know whether the prosecutors knew that Swartz had a history of serious depression. We do think they that tried to scare him half to death into accepting a plea deal, and that a brilliant life lost is the tragic result.

Andrew Fischer

Jeffrey Stone


The writers are president and member, respectively, of the board of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action.