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Al Franken Sends Eric Holder Letter Over 'Remarkably Aggressive' Aaron Swartz Prosecution

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FILE - Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questions witnesses testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 29, 2011. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questions witnesses testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 29, 2011. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking for more information about the Justice Department's prosecution of Internet icon Aaron Swartz, writing that the case appears "remarkably aggressive -- particularly when it appears that one of the principal aggrieved parties ... did not support a criminal prosecution."

Franken's correspondence follows a January letter to Holder from Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) that asked a series of pointed questions about DOJ's case against Swartz, including whether Swartz's Freedom of Information Act requests had fueled his prosecution.

Franken's brief letter calls Swartz's death "tragic," and the senator asks to be copied on Holder's response to Cornyn. Franken chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, which has jurisdiction over laws that Internet activists hope to change in order to prevent further prosecutions for relatively minor computer offenses.

The full text of Franken's letter, dated March 13, is below:

Dear Attorney General Holder:

I am writing to associate myself with my colleague Senator John Cornyn's letter to you regarding the Department of Justice's prosecution of the late Aaron Swartz.

Mr. Swartz's passing was untimely and tragic. There may be disagreement on the exact merits of the case against him, but charging a young man like Mr. Swartz with federal offenses punishable by over 35 years of federal imprisonment seems remarkably aggressive -- particularly when it appears that one of the principal aggrieved parties, the academic subscription service JSTOR, did not support a criminal prosecution.

I respectfully ask that I be copied on your response to Senator Cornyn's letter.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Al Franken
United States Senator

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