The prosecution didn’t just show poor judgment in its prosecution of Aaron. In addition, Steve Heymann actively broke the law and violated Aaron’s constitutional rights. Below, you can read the details, but the basic outline is that Heymann withheld evidence that would have been helpful to Aaron’s defense, and that he was legally and ethically bound to hand over from the very beginning of the case, until December 2012 — almost two years after Aaron was arrested.
A few additional notes to the release: Heymann appears to be lying to the DOJ, or else the DOJ is lying to Congress, about when Heymann turned over the exculpatory evidence in question. Ryan Grim reports that DOJ is insisting that Heymann turned over the exculpatory evidence during the status conference in December, rather than after. But I was there, and that is a lie.
Of course, Heymann had an obligation to turn over the evidence months if not years before that conference, but even in the very unlikely event of an honest mistake where he somehow “remembered” the evidence the very morning of the status conference, he would have been obliged to turn it over immediately instead of waiting til after the conference.
And finally, it seems entirely clear the Heymann would not have turned over this crucial piece of evidence if the judge had not ruled at the status conference that there would be an evidentiary hearing in January. That implies that there may well be more exculpatory evidence that Heymann has also illegally withheld, and that we don’t know about yet. That’s why Congress must subpeona all of Heymann’s files in this case, not just the evidence he submitted to the Court that we already know about.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, 14 March 2013
Aaron Swartz’s Lawyers Accuse US Prosecutor Stephen Heymann of Misconduct and Overreach
WASHINGTON, DC - In a letter to an internal Justice Department ethics unit from January 2013 made public yesterday, Aaron Swartz’s lawyers argue that US Prosecutor Stephen Heymann, the attorney who handled the case on a day-to-day basis, engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by withholding key evidence from Swartz’s defense team and overreaching in his attempt to coerce Aaron into waiving his right to trial.
In the letter to the Justice Department, Swartz’s attorney, Elliot Peters, elaborates on a legal complaint made earlier in the month that indicates how Heymann had withheld exculpatory evidence at a December 2012 hearing that would have demonstrated whether the government had properly obtained a warrant to search Swartz’s computer and thumb drive. Email evidence later revealed that Heymann made false statements about his ability to provide and obtain those materials. In that December hearing, Swartz’s legal defense team was given that evidence only after the hearing had concluded.
View The Motion to Suppress Evidence Complaint, and email evidence involved here:
Reacting to the withheld evidence and conflicting story by the Prosecutor, Swartz’s attorneys emailed Heymann on December 18, 2012, asking for any additional withheld evidence and verifying that important evidence had not been provided appropriately to Swartz’s defense team until after the hearing had concluded.
In further email exchanges between Peters and Heymann from January 4th, 2013, Heymann argued that Peters had inferred a charge of prosecutorial misconduct. Swartz’s defense responded by saying that Heymann was “creating” that accusation so that he could “take offense” to it.
Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Swartz’s partner, responded to the revelations: “We now know that Steve Heymann would have gone to any lengths to put Aaron in prison — even violating his own legal, ethical, and professional obligations. Heymann turned over this one piece of exculpatory evidence in December as soon as he knew that we would have found it eventually anyway. What we don’t know is what exculpatory evidence he’s still hiding. Congress has already asked for the evidence that is under protective order. Congress must also subpeona Heymann’s entire case file and all records he kept related to the case, not just those he gave to the defense and put under protective order, so that we can find out what else he was illegally hiding from Aaron’s lawyers.”
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