Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chicago Criminal Lawyers' Court Call: 4/12/13

On this day, Raymond G. Wigell and Huma Rashid were in two different courthouses handling two very different matters.

Raymond G. Wigell was in the Cook County Courthouse in Skokie, Illinois, handling a three-count felony Burglary to Auto. Discovery was tendered by the State, and the Defense filed a motion of its own. The matter was continued for a hearing on the motion in one month.

Huma Rashid was in the Cook County Courthouse in Markham, Illinois. Our client is charged with three counts of Unlawful Acquisition of a Controlled Substance, and was scheduled to be arraigned on this date. Huma briefed the client fully as to what an arraignment was and how the client would be admonished and what it all meant. The client was assigned to the trial judge that will hear this matter, and was arraigned before said judge. After the arraignment, Huma filed a Petition for Substitution of Judge, as well as a Motion to Advance, which requests that the Court hear a certain matter before the next scheduled by agreement or by motion date. The matter was advanced for the next week, and on that date, Huma Rashid will return to this courthouse for a hearing on her petition for substitution of judge.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Chicago Criminal Lawyers' Court Call: 4/11/2013

On this day, Raymond G. Wigell and Huma Rashid appeared in the Kankakee County Courthouse in Kankakee, Illinois, on a traffic matter.

Our firm does not handle many traffic cases anymore, focusing instead on felonies at both the federal level, but this matter was referred to us by a colleague and friend.

Our client is charged with driving without having a license, and the problem is that he is undocumented. In Illinois, a new law taking effect in November of 2013 paves the way for undocumented immigrants to get their Illinois drivers' license. Though this case will be over long before November, this legislative act is something that the Court should be aware of in making its deliberations, and it is our plan to make sure that this is so.

On the first date, we filed our appearance as our client's attorneys and the State tendered an offer. We conveyed the offer to our client, discussed his rights and options, and instead of entering a plea that day and continuing the matter for sentencing, we opted to take another date for the plea, mitigation, and sentencing.

This gives us a little more than a month to put together a detailed mitigation presentation in which the Court will be made aware of all the mitigating factors about our client that affect this issue, and it is our hope that the Court will make a ruling that includes terms more favorable than the State's reasonable offer.

On that day, Raymond G. Wigell and Huma Rashid will return to the Kankakee County Courthouse, pictured below, to enter a plea, present mitigation, and proceed to sentencing.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chicago Criminal Lawyers' Court Call: 04/10/2013

On this day, Huma Rashid and Raymond Wigell appeared in different courthouse on several different cases. Due to the heavy case load that was on the criminal court call for this morning, Raymond Wigell was accompanied by the firm's head paralegal, Nicole Dietsch.

Huma Rashid appeared in the Iroquois County Courthouse, located in Watseka, Illinois, to appear on a traffic matter. Our client is a truck driver with a commercial driver's license, and was issued two citations. In negotiations with the State, Huma was able to get the case dismissed with the result of the State's motion to enter nolle prosequi on one citation, and reducing the other citation to a lesser violation. An initial offer was made for 90 days supervision, but Huma was able to reduce that to 60 days. In addition to that, a fine was assessed by the court and the client paid it that day.

Raymond Wigell and Nicole Dietsch appeared on several cases at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet, Illinois.

In the first case, our client is charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance. This is the same client we currently represent on an Attempted First Degree Murder case. The matter was continued for a later date.

In the second case, our client is charged with Criminal Sexual Assault. A date was set at which defense counsel would file and argue motions in limine.

In the third case, our client is charged with Possession of Child Pornography. The State asked for a date in order to continue working on the forensics report. It was later determined that the State has a partial forensics report ready, but is evaluating whether or not they want to retrieve a full forensics report on the alleged contraband present on the client's computers.

In our final case, our client is charged with five counts of Possession of Child Pornography and the matter was set for sentencing. On this date, however, the Court and State agreed that it would be prudent to order another Pre-Sentence Investigation report and Sex Evaluation because there was an error/misstatement in the previous report. The matter was continued to a date in May.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Chicago Criminal Lawyers' Court Call: 04/09/2013

On this day, Huma Rashid appeared at the Cook County Courthouse in Bridgeview, Illinois, for a status date on one of our cases. Raymond Wigell appeared at the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton, Illinois, for a status date on another one of our cases.

Raymond Wigell appeared that day to represent a client charged with twelve counts of Possession of Child Pornography, which include Class 1, 2, and Class X felonies. In Class X felonies, unless they are reduced to Class 1, probation is not available.

This was a status date, with another status date set for the end of May. When a date is set at the bond hearing, often times the earlier status date is struck. However, due to a miscommunication with the Clerk's office, it was unclear that the appearance on this date was waived. Raymond Wigell appeared with the client, and the matter was continued for that later date set in May.

Huma Rashid was representing a client who is charged with eighteen counts, primarily Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse. The State made an offer to reduce the charges down from a felony to a misdemeanor with sex offender registration for a period of 10 years. Huma Rashid and Raymond Wigell conferred about the offer, and discussed it with the client. Ultimately it was decided that the offer was not acceptable and that the defense would make a demand for trial. A short status date was set for one week later to give defense counsel and the State an additional chance to confer about the procedural aspects of the case moving forward, as the State anticipates filing a 115-10 motion and issuing a few subpoenas.

On that date in one week's time, Raymond Wigell and Huma Rashid will return to court to inform the Court as to whether they accept the State's offer to reduce charges to a misdemeanor, or wish to proceed to trial. If defense counsel demands a trial, a date will be picked out between counsel and the Court.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chicago Criminal Lawyers' Court Call: 04/08/2013

On this day, Huma Rashid was in court at the Cook County Courthouse in Bridgeview, Illinois, to handle a status date.

Our client is charged with seven counts of Possession of Child Pornography, and this was a status date as to discovery.

Two weeks prior to this date, the State had personally delivered additional discovery to our offices located in Olympia Fields. Because the most recently tendered discovery was rather technical in nature, discovery review was not completed in an appropriately thorough manner on this date.

To that effect, the defense requested additional time to review discovery, as well as to confer with the client and explain what the discovery reveals about the strength or weakness of our case. The request was granted and the matter was continued until May 8, 2013.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chicago Criminal Lawyers' Court Call: 04/05/2013

On this day, Raymond Wigell and Huma Rashid were at the Will County Courthouse located in Joliet, Illinois, to handle a sentencing hearing on a child pornography case.

Our client was originally charged with ten counts of possession of child pornography. The State, in conjunction with the Attorney General's office, made an offer and Raymond Wigell negotiated a plea agreement that reduced the charges to five counts. As this is a Class 2 felony, the client is eligible for probation.

The sentencing hearing was supposed to be done on this day, and the presiding Judge would determine whether or not our client received probation, or 5 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Unfortunately, due to an emergency, one of the attorneys for the State was unable to present his arguments, and the Judge allowed the defense and the State to reschedule sentencing for three business days later.

There was also an issue with the Pre-Sentencing Investigative report and Sex Evaluation, prepared by a medical professional that is an arm of the court. The State and Judge expressed concern about the error, and the State requested time to evaluate its position as to whether or not they would seek to order another report and evaluation.

The matter was, unfortunately, not resolved that day and the parties will all return in the following week for sentencing.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Criminal Lawyers' Court Call: 4/03/2013

On this morning, Raymond G. Wigell and Huma Rashid appeared at the Cook County Courthouse in Markham, Illinois.

We had three cases up on the call that day, so it was a slightly heavier day. Despite all of that, we were able to handle everything efficiently, and had our clients out of the courthouse in about an hour. Though we never want to rush our court dates, we also don't like to keep our clients delayed there for no reason.

In our first case up that morning, our client was charged with the following:
  • five (5) counts of Dog Fighting (720 ILCS 5/26-5(a)) 
  • five (5) counts of Aggravated Cruelty (510 ILCS 70/3.02(1)). 

This was a status date in order to see if the State was able to procure USDA reports made by federal agents about this case. At this date, the State had been unable to get the reports, and was in fact uncertain as to whether or not the reports actually existed. We set a final status date for the State to determine whether or not the reports exist and if they'd like to include them in discovery. On that date in May, we will likely set a date for trial, unless new information requires that we set another status date. Sometimes, that happens: even if a date is set as a final status date, one or more additional status dates are set past that date if the situation calls for it.

In our second case up that morning, our client was charged with the following:
  • four (4) counts of Attempted First Degree Murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a) and 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1))
  • five (5) counts of Home Invasion (720 ILCS 5/12-11(a)(3))
  • four (4) counts of Armed Robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a)(2))
  • seven (7) counts of Aggravated Kidnapping (720 ILCS 5/10-2(a)(6))
  • two (2) counts of Aggravated Battery with a firearm (720 ILCS 5/12-4.2(a)(1))
  • two (2) counts of Aggravated Discharge of a firearm (720 ILCS 5/24-1.2(a)(2))  
  • five (5) counts of Aggravated Unlawful Restraint (720 ILCS 5/10-3.1)
  • two (2) counts of Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1)/(3)(A)
This date was supposed to be a hearing on the Defense's motion in limine. However, in a conversation between the two of us and the Assistant State's Attorney, it was decided that a hearing was premature, especially since additional discovery was tendered on this day. Instead, we took a short status date for later this month, on a date when one of the co-defendants in this case is in for a status date. On that day, we will have a hearing on our motion.

In our final case up that morning, our client was charged with the following:
  • Three (3) counts of Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1)/(3)(A); 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1)/(3)(C); and 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1)/(3)(I))
This was a final status date. On this date, we were to inform the ASA whether or not our client wanted to go to trial, or plead. In a preliminary conversation with the State, we tried to negotiate something in the eleventh hour, although we've had these conversations many times before. We asked if the State would come off the mandatory minimum (of 1 year in IDOC), and if we could work something out, possibly by way of a 402 conference with the Judge. The ASA indicated that since this was a gun case and due to national headlines and public discourse, guns were a hot-button issue and the States Attorney's office took a hard line stance on such things.

That having been said, we informed the State that we would be gearing up for trial, and indicated that we would seek a jury trial (in which the independent fact-finders are twelve people that are a cross-section of the community) instead of a bench trial (in which the independent fact-finder is the presiding Judge). With the date set, there was no need to be called up before the Judge, so that was that.

With those three cases taken care for for now, we met with each of our clients (we always do this immediately after the case gets called up) and sent them on their way before returning to the office.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Criminal Lawyers' Court Call: 3/22/2013

On March 22, 2013, Raymond G. Wigell and Huma Rashid were at the Cook County Courthouse in Markham, Illinois, to handle a preliminary hearing.

Our client is charged with three counts of unlawfully acquiring/obtaining possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge (720 ILCS 570/406(b)(3)). He has not been indicted yet, and we finally received a copy of the pertinent police reports about five minutes before the preliminary hearing.

The State put on one witness, the responding police officer. The officer testified during the direct examination as to how he came to be called to the scene and his interrogation of the person he briefly detained (who was not our client). On cross, Raymond established that there was little evidence to connect our client to that particular fraudulent transaction.

Ultimately, the Judge made a finding of probable cause. This was expected, as the defense rarely wins at preliminary hearing because the threshold of proof is so low. Additionally, it is quite possible that the Judge ruled the way he did for the sake of expediency; had he ruled that there was no probable cause, the State would have taken the case to a grand jury, secured an indictment, and all four of us would have been in front of the same judge in couple months.

The case was pushed through to assignment and we made a demand for trial, and now we await the State's discovery so that we may better analyze our client's position.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Criminal Lawyers' Court Call: 3/20/2013

On Wednesday morning, Raymond G. Wigell and Huma Rashid were both in court. Raymond was at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet, Illinois, while Huma was at the Cook County Courthouse in Bridgeview, IL.

Raymond had two cases up this morning. The first client is charged with Possession of Child Pornography, and this was a discovery status date. The State and the Defense are waiting for a full forensics report of the computer equipment involved, and the matter was continued for another status date in a month.

The second client is charged with a Felony DUI. His court date was scheduled for 9:30AM, and the client did not show up. Raymond persuaded the court to pass the case so he might wait for his client and attempt to locate him. Unfortunately, all attempts to locate the client were in vain, and an hour later, the court issued a warrant for his arrest. The client must turn himself in as soon as possible, and he forfeits his bond in not appearing before the court on a scheduled court date.

Huma's morning was not as eventful. She appeared in Bridgeview to represent a client on a status date for his supervision. The State asked that he pay fines and costs in order to be in compliance with the conditions of supervision, and the matter was continued to termination.

With that all wrapped up, but unfortunately still no word from our missing client, Raymond and Huma returned to the office.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Criminal Lawyers' Court Call: 03/18/2013

On Monday, March 18, 2013, Raymond G. Wigell and Huma Rashid were in the Cook County Courthouse on 26th and California to argue a motion in a felony sex case.

The client is charged in a multi-count indictment and is currently in custody. The charges are as follow:

  • Ten (10) counts of Aggravated criminal Sexual Assault - 720 ILCS 5/11-1.30(a)(2) and 720 ILCS 5/11-1/30(a)(4).
  • Three (3) counts of Aggravated Kidnapping - 720 ILCS 5/10-2(a)(3) 
  • Twenty (20) counts of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse - 720 ILCS 5/11-1.60(a)(6) and 720 ILCS 5/11-1.60(a)(2) 
  • One (1) count of Robbery - 720 ILCS 5/18-1(a) 
  • One (1) count of Unlawful Restraint - 720 ILCS 5/10-3(a)
Huma Rashid argued a motion to keep the client housed in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center past his seventeenth birthday. She aggressively presented mitigation in favor of her client's position while the State argued that he be transferred to the Cook County Detention Center.

The Honorable Judge denied the motion. The case was continued for another status date at which the State will have another chance to tender additional discovery.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Criminal Lawyers' Court Call: 3/13/2013

Yesterday morning, Raymond G. Wigell and Huma Rashid were in court at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet, Illinois, for a hearing on a lengthy motion.

It was a light day scheduling-wise. We normally try to schedule 2-3 court appearances on the same day in the same location because that is the most efficient way to schedule them. On Tuesday, however, we only had one client to take care of, and the matter was set for a hearing on a twenty-five page defense motion to exclude evidence that the defense contends is irrelevant.

Our client is charged in a two count indictment for Possession of Child Pornography. While the call was supposed to be for a hearing, in which both the state and defense would argue a motion to the Judge who would ultimately rule on the matter, the State requested a continuance in order to secure more time to file its response to the defense's motion.

The matter was continued for another six weeks. One week later, the matter will be heard before the Court. This means that Raymond and I will prepare our oral arguments in support of the defense motion, and also use the State's response in preparation once the response is filed.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Criminal Lawyers Court Call: 3/11/2013

On Monday, Huma Rashid appeared at Bridgeview on a Violation of Conditional Discharge.

Our client had been indicted for the Use of Forged Credit or Debit Card, and had been placed on conditional discharge for two years. The case had already been closed when our client was indicted again for Possession of a Controlled Substance. Unfortunately, since he was out on conditional discharge at that time, this triggered a violation. A Violation of a Bail Bond, Violation of Probation, and Violation of Conditional Discharge are all new cases, even though they are triggered by new cases, and arise out of older cases that have already been closed.

A notice to appear in court was sent out to our client, which he had not received, so a warrant was issued for his arrest. Our client's family paid bond and he was released not too long after his arrest, and this was the first court date on the new violation.

My task for the day was simple. I had to file my appearance, which is a letter to the court that announces my representation of the client in this matter. This catches up to the file so that all parties know who to speak to about anything concerning the defendant.

Shortly after filing my appearance, my case was called. I introduced myself to all parties as the attorney of record and informed the Judge, who I have appeared before several times, that I would request a copy of the State's Petition to Revoke Conditional Discharge, and I would ask for a date of continuance to be set so I had a chance to review it and talk about it with my client.

This particular Judge handles her violations on Mondays, so the case was continued to a Monday about seven weeks into the future. After the call was completed, I made copies of the Petition to Revoke and left the courthouse. It was a light day, because I only had one case on call in that particular courthouse while the senior attorney handled another court call in Skokie, involving Felony Burglary to Auto.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Weapons of Mass Incarceration


Only in America do we spend $40,000 a year to incarcerate each prison inmate, and only $8,000 a year to educate each elementary school student.

While the monetary figures vary from state to state, with some states spending more per year on school children, and other states spending even more than $40,000 per year on inmate, this is an important issue that American lawmakers and the American public need to tackle.

At the Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd., several of the clients we represent are currently in custody, awaiting trial. These are clients for whom the bond - of which they must post 10% in order to walk free - is far too high, so they must remain in the custody of the Department of Corrections until trial or until their loved ones can come up with the money.

Not every family can access the tens of thousands of dollars often needed to secure a loved one's freedom (conditional on the eventual verdict in the case), which is a source of much frustration and devastation. Prison is not a nice place, and especially not in the Cook County jail system. I use prison and jail synonymously, even though there is a distinction. Jail refers to the institution in which people are held after arrest, and in anticipation of trial. Prison is the institution to which people are sent after a judge has sentenced them to a serve a certain amount of time for which they have already been convicted.

Many of the people in jail, awaiting trial, do not belong there and should not have been charged. And many people in prison should not be there for as long as they have to be. Abuse of police power and prosecutorial discretion, as well as disparity in sentencing, all contribute to the soaring numbers of people behind bars.

And the more people behind bars, the greater the financial and social cost to the country.

In the coming weeks, we at the blog for the Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd., will be publishing a series of posts looking at incarceration, sentencing, for-profit prisons, and the impact of all of these on society. These are issues we care about deeply, and which we fight against every day. We hope you'll come back soon and stay informed.

As always, if you or a loved one is the subject of a criminal investigation or is being charged, it's very likely that the main goal is to stay out of prison. That is what we at the Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd., fight for. Contact us at (708) 481 - 4800, and let us help you in your time of need. Attorneys are available 24/7, and the first consultation is always free.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Police Terrorize Child Over Allegedly Stolen $5


Last week, a young Hispanic man accused of stealing was handcuffed to a railing at a Bronx police department and interrogated by officers for over ten hours.

This story is not all that uncommon and based on the details above, it fails to shock and enrage. It is not unusual to hear of young men being subjected to grueling police interrogations during the course of a criminal investigation.

But here are the details that make this event truly shocking: the subject of this ten hour interrogation was a seven year old boy. He was accused of stealing $5.

Wilson Reyes’s family members were shocked to enter the Bronx precinct where he was being held and find him handcuffed to a railing. He was wrongly accused of taking $5 from another student on the playground, and was subjected to physical restraints and verbal abuse for a total of ten hours at the hands of the NYPD.

The boy’s family is filing a $250 million claim against the city and the NYPD for the brutality. The robbery charge has since been dropped, and another child confessed to stealing the $5 from the victim. While the NYPD continued to argue that the child was held for a reasonable period of time, the family lawyer, Jack Yankowitz, had this to say: “It’s unfathomable, what the police did. The whole thing sounds so stupid. They were interrogating him like he was a hardened criminal. …If you have a child, a nephew, can you even imagine this happening to them?”

This story is a difficult one to process, and one can’t help but empathize with this poor child and his family. Little Wilson Reyes – and many other children like him who have experienced this – will remember this event for the rest of his life. When he’s seventeen years old, old enough to be charged as an adult, he may see a cop harassing someone. He’ll intervene and get charged with assault on an officer and be packed off to the local Department of Corrections, and that will be that. That is the nature of the life-long ritual abuse at the hands of the justice department.

But even if nothing even close to that ever happens, consider for a moment that this happened in a country that considers spanking to be child abuse. At the very least, this child will carry these traumatic events with him for the rest of his life. He’ll suffer from anxiety issues and very likely Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well, all at the hands of the people that ‘help solve crime.’ And that is what is criminal.

For many people, particularly minorities, instances of police misconduct and overreaction like this are a reality. There are numerous stories that make the news – and countless more that do not – of unconscionably long interrogations, food and sleep deprivation, freezing temperatures, verbal abuse, beatings, and other police misconduct.

As defense attorneys, we at the Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd., have had many clients come in with accounts of being mistreated by police. The accounts vary, but the sense of humiliation, fear, and severe stress our clients experienced is always the same. While this law firm does not handle these civil complaints against local police departments, we use our indignation over the treatment our clients suffered to help us in our fight to defend their rights and defeat the charges made against them.

If you or a loved one is the subject of a criminal investigation or has been charged with a crime, time is of the essence. Let us at the Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd., use our 37 years of experience to help you in your time of need. Attorneys are available 24/7 and the first consultation is always free. Contact us at (708) 481 – 4800.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Raymond G. Wigell to teach at 2013 Clarence Darrow Death Penalty Defense College at DePaul University College of Law

The Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd., is pleased to announce that Raymond Wigell has accepted a faculty position at the Clarence Darrow Death Penalty Defense College, taking place June 3-7, 2013, at the DePaul University College of Law in Chicago.

The Clarence Darrow Death Penalty Defense College is a week-long intensive seminar held annually in June and led by Professor Andrea D. Lyon, Associate Dean of Clinical Programs at DePaul University and director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases. Seasoned death penalty-qualified attorneys from all over the United States bring their current capital cases to a forum that will allow them to brainstorm procedure, strategies, and trial techniques with their colleagues that are veterans of capital punishment defense.

The Center for Justice in Capital Cases organizes and presents seminars featuring nationally recognized authorities on subjects such as trial investigation, mitigation work, jury selection and management, forensic pathology, and managing lawyer stress in the area of capital defense. Attorneys, investigators, and mitigators also gather in discipline-specific meetings. The integration of the attorneys, investigators, and mitigators in plenary sessions is critical in the preparation of a death penalty case.

The combination of the plenary and discipline-specific sessions makes the Clarence Darrow Death Penalty College an exceptional experience for its attendees.

This will be Raymond Wigell's sixth time serving as a faculty member, and he will draw on his many years of experience as a trial attorney for the Office of the Public Defender of Cook County, a private criminal defense attorney, and as Certified Lead Counsel, State of Illinois Capital Litigation Trial Bar.

Online registration is available for death penalty-qualified attorneys that wish to be Darrow College participants in 2013. If you know a capital defense attorney, mitigation specialist, or fact investigator (or a team) that would benefit from the training, please visit or share the link to the Clarence Darrow Death Penalty Defense College, where registration information is available. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In Memoriam of Aaron Swartz; Concerns About the (In)Justice System

On January 11, 2013, Aaron Swartz committed suicide. Those outside the online activism, open access, and social media circles may not be familiar with this young man, but he is responsible for protecting many of our rights to open access and our internet privacy. At the age of fourteen, Aaron co-authored RSS, which is now vital to most aspects of content creation and content consumption online. He created Reddit, a very popular social media site (which knows its fair share of legal troubles, since some members use the forum to trade child pornography). Aaron was also the founder of DemandProgress, a site and online network of activists that became a very powerful tool in fighting COICA (Combatting Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act), the precursor to SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), which would have severely curtailed our online freedoms and privacy if passed by Congress.

While at MIT, Swartz used his access to online academic databases to download more than 400 academic journals and make them available to the public for free. According to the government, his reason for doing this was that the research written up for these journals was publicly funded, but due to the publishing methods used, the general public had very little access to this vast body of scholarship. Membership plans were pricy, and free membership was only available to those privileged few admitted to undergraduate and graduate programs where the college or university paid for access and allowed students to use the journals.

It is entirely possible, however, that Swartz was doing what a lot of hackers do and honing his skills with new challenges – the digital, online version of climbing the mountain “because it’s there.”

JSTOR, one of the biggest online journal databases and certainly quite a litigious body, was aware of the cyber-trespass, but did not press charges. It was the United States government that pressed charges and, relying on draconian computer laws, tried the case that resulted in a sentence of thirty-five years in prison for this liberation of publicly-funded knowledge and scholarship.

After the verdict, on January 11, 2013, Aaron Swartz committed suicide.

The internet mourned the loss of this young visionary and champion of net neutrality. Lawrence Lessig, an academic and political advocate that is fiercely supportive of online rights and a reform of computer laws, remembered his young friend and colleague, calling him an “incredible soul.” Ronaldo Lemos, the head of Creative Commons Brazil, shared his email exchanges with Swartz, calling him an “original thinker.” Rafael Reif, the President of MIT, issued a statement as well and announced an internal investigation at the university. The Daily Beast published a great write-up about this Free Internet activist, and ABC News reported that Swartz’s death fueled an MIT probe and sparked a White House petition to oust the prosecutor that tried and won the case.

Sadly, the story of an individual using the Internet on his computer and catching a long prison sentence is nothing new or unfamiliar at the Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd. Since he started practicing in 1975, Raymond Wigell has represented many people accused of various online crimes, and in most cases, the government proposes unreasonably long sentences that do not fit the crime.

One particularly memorable case that the Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd., handled involved two young computer hackers. These men were part of a small group of hackers that honed their skills by hacking various software programs and switching servers and bouncing IP addresses. They never sold any of the information or material they hacked; instead, they shared it among themselves and those they trusted. But they hacked one program too many, and the US government caught wind of it and pressed charges. Though this group of “techies” argued that they didn’t harm anyone because they never sold any information, the government maintained that hacking and piracy violated the rights of the owners.

The two men represented by the Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd., accepted responsibility for their wrong-doing but argued that it was without personal gain. They only hacked the programs to see if they could actually do it. . On the government’s end, however, motive doesn’t matter. People who are engaging in silly, harmless conduct online with regard to piracy and hacking are treated the same as those that have malicious intent, or those who act with financial gain as their only motive. The government, when going for prison time, consults the sentencing guidelines and often pushes for the maximum years available, which can be ten, or twenty, or even more than that.

In this case, the sentencing guidelines indicated a sentence of 10 years in prison for one of the men, and Raymond Wigell was able to argue to the judge that a term of 2 years was appropriate under all of the circumstances. For the other man, Raymond was able to argue and successfully get him sentenced to probation.

While cybercrimes are serious, and involve things like hacking, piracy, distribution of pirated materials, and even things relating to sex offender registration and the like, the problem is that often times the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Between overzealous prosecutors, like the one in charge of the case against Aaron Swartz, and fundamental flaws in our sentencing guidelines and justice system at large, many people are being sent to prison without a compelling reason, or being held there longer than is reasonable or appropriate.

Aaron Swartz’s death is a tragedy. He was a young man with a full life ahead of him, and the potential for even more greatness. He was brilliant, innovative, original, a revolutionary thinker and a celebrated advocate of net neutrality and open access. In our digital age, we need more “hacktivists” like him (despite how online security interests try to frame the idea of hacktivism and hacktivists as something threatening and disruptive).

But in our outrage about the entirely preventable death of a brilliant young man loved throughout the Internet by the lowliest middle-schooler with a Reddit account to a leader of political and academic discourse about the Internet like Lawrence Lessig, we must not forget about the others.

The others are the countless individuals who didn’t create Reddit or co-author RSS, but who were also given unjustly long prison sentences. They are the ones who faced a cold, unfeeling justice system and lost. They are the drug offenders who get lengthy prison sentences for a relatively small amount of contraband. They are the repeat drug offenders who get years upon years tacked on to their prison term instead of treatment that could actually rehabilitate them and help them once more become productive members of society. They are the non-white members of the population that face a higher risk of arrest and lengthier incarceration simply for the color of their skin.

The justice system fails them every single day, but we don’t hear about it on the nightly news. The only people who hear about these people are their family members, their friends, and their defense attorneys. The justice system failed them just like it failed Aaron Swartz. While Aaron and Aaron alone is responsible for the choice he made, it is certainly true that the outcome of his case weighed heavily on his decision.

We mourn Aaron Swartz, and we should be mourning the other men and women like him, who weren’t prodigies and weren’t friends of Lawrence Lessig. We should use our outrage at Aaron Swartz not to kick up the dust now only to let it settle, but to use it as an impetus for a serious discussion of the way our justice system functions, and an examination of sentencing guidelines that, despite their purpose, do not always ensure that justice is served.

In mourning Aaron Swartz and the brilliant life extinguished, we should work toward changing the system that extinguishes countless brilliant, productive lives every day.

The Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell has represented many people accused of hacking, piracy, and other Internet crimes. If you or a loved one is in trouble, you have hopefully realized from this post that this is not something to brush aside. The US government takes cybercrimes very seriously, and if you or a loved one is being investigated for or charged with any Internet crimes, time is of the essence. Contact the Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd., at (708) 481 – 4800. Attorneys are available 24/7 and the first consultation is free. Let us use our 37 years of experience in criminal defense to help you in your time of need.