Quinn Norton — who was romantically involved with Aaron Swartz for a long time, and was also his close friend — has written a brutal, honest, infuriating, and brave account of her dealings with Steve Heymann, the prosecutor who hounded Aaron over his downloading of scientific journal articles. Heymann is a terror among Aaron’s friends. Everyone I know who has met him has described him as a vicious, vindictive, authoritarian thug who destroys lives for giggles and notches on his bed-post.
Quinn’s piece sheds light on the awful cruelty of the system, for which Aaron’s case was a microcosm. America imprisons more people than any other country in the history of the world. 97% of those indicted by federal prosecutors are intimidated into pleading guilty, which means that if a prosecutor like Heymann decides you should go to jail, 97% of the time, you will be coerced into prison without even getting a chance to make a defense (the coercion relies on threats of decade upon decade of prison and bankruptcy for you and all you love should you try to fight).