But is it really so strange? Instead, let’s suppose that the US Attorney was faithfully carrying out government policy. What does the prosecution tell us about that policy? Swartz was a crusader for open information. (For example, before JSTOR, Swartz was making public court records available to the public.) The Obama administration — which is notoriously opposed to open information — threw the book at him.
So maybe this was a rogue US Attorney, losing sight of the big picture and of common decency. Maybe. But Occam’s razor suggests a simpler explanation: the US Attorney, taking her cue from her boss, wanted to make an example of Aaron Swartz, so she did.
UPDATE: Adding credence to my theory, an unchastened White House is cool to the idea of passing “Aaron’s Law”, which would scale back criminal penalties for harmless terms-of-use violations.