Then they offered [Aaron Swartz] a deal familiar to criminal defendants everywhere: plead guilty, and get off relatively easily—in his case, six months in a “low security setting”—or take your chances at trial, and face a harsher sentence if you lose. For Mr Swartz, that could have meant a sentence of decades in prison and fines exceeding $1m.
Until the early 20th century, plea-bargaining was widely considered corrupt. But as the number of criminal statutes grew, so did the stress on the courts, and the consequent need to avoid endless trials.
Our criminal prosecution system is disgusting.