The Associated Press

Prosecutor Ortiz Defends Charges Against Swartz

BOSTON — A federal prosecutor who has been harshly criticized since the suicide of Internet activist Aaron Swartz has defended a decision to charge him with 13 felonies in a computer hacking case.

Boston-based U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz issued a statement late Wednesday saying although she extends her “heartfelt sympathy” to Swartz’s family and friends, her office was “appropriate in bringing and handling this case.”

Swartz, who advocated for court documents and scholarly articles to be available free on the Internet, was found dead in his New York apartment Friday.

He was indicted in Boston in 2011 for allegedly using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s computer network to download nearly 5 million academic articles.

Swartz’s family, who believe the criminal charges prompted his suicide, has blasted Ortiz.

– Here’s Ortiz’s complete statement:

As a parent and a sister, I can only imagine the pain felt by the family and friends of Aaron Swartz, and I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to everyone who knew and loved this young man. I know that there is little I can say to abate the anger felt by those who believe that this office’s prosecution of Mr. Swartz was unwarranted and somehow led to the tragic result of him taking his own life.

I must, however, make clear that this office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case. The career prosecutors handling this matter took on the difficult task of enforcing a law they had taken an oath to uphold, and did so reasonably. The prosecutors recognized that there was no evidence against Mr. Swartz indicating that he committed his acts for personal financial gain, and they recognized that his conduct – while a violation of the law – did not warrant the severe punishments authorized by Congress and called for by the Sentencing Guidelines in appropriate cases. That is why in the discussions with his counsel about a resolution of the case this office sought an appropriate sentence that matched the alleged conduct – a sentence that we would recommend to the judge of six months in a low security setting. While at the same time, his defense counsel would have been free to recommend a sentence of probation. Ultimately, any sentence imposed would have been up to the judge. At no time did this office ever seek – or ever tell Mr. Swartz’s attorneys that it intended to seek – maximum penalties under the law.

As federal prosecutors, our mission includes protecting the use of computers and the Internet by enforcing the law as fairly and responsibly as possible. We strive to do our best to fulfill this mission every day.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on
  • john gilberg

    guess he couldn’t hack it………..Breaking the law seems to be only real when one is caught. What he did was illegal, immature, and unwarranted. He should have used his computer skills legally and this would all been avoided……….

  • Fred217

    Do I find Ms Ortiz’s comment self-serving and
    disingenuous? Yes. Threatening people with decades in prison, then
    bargaining down to less prison time plus a felony record is hardly “reasonable”,
    especially in light of the exorbitant financial cost of defending one’s name
    and innocence. She seeks to rack up wins, regardless the cost to any
    individual, regardless their past contributions, regardless the benefit to the
    country (and arguably far greater costs when people are jailed). It appears “piling on” against individuals of
    limited means is the modus operandi for the US Attorney’s office under Ortiz. Google “Caswell Motel forfeiture”
    and you will find a sordid tale of the government (Ortiz again) seeking to
    seize a fourth-generation family business, depriving the owners of their sole
    income and life’s savings. The federal magistrate hearing the case was quoted
    in the Globe as saying she had “serious concerns about the government’s
    interpretation” of the federal forfeiture law being used. Where is the oversight of the federal
    prosecutor system? Where does diligence become
    abuse of power, and unfettered power, tyranny?

  • ene-bene-raba

    “We did not want to put him in jail for the rest of his life, we just wanted to tar-and-feather him.”


    Aaron Swartz did not break into any computer system. Whatever he did amounted to downloading more data that an average user. This could be interpreted as a violation of a service agreement, but it was not a violation of a law.

    Ortiz wanted to label him as a felon for the rest of his life. The statement from her office clearly shows that she still does not understand the severity of her actions.

    She must be removed.

  • jdawgnoonan

    Our country and our laws no longer have tolerance for anything. This man harmed nothing, overall his motivations were very pure and ethical. We are the land of zero tolerance. I am sorry, but our over-reactionary laws have done nothing but harm our society. If you look around at our country and wonder why it seems so harsh and there is so much violence…well, I believe that you should look at how intolerant we have become. We love jailing people for small things.

  • Isabella

    Ms. Ortiz still does not get it. If she had any intelligence or decency, she would have resigned already. How much longer do we have to be subjected to this shameless incompetent as our U.S. Attorney?

  • Chuck Crane

    This sounds like the Adolf Eichmann defense. “I was just doing my job. I took an oath and was following orders.” Pretty pathetic.

    But then even the Eichmann defense doesn’t work here. Prosecutors are not bound to prosecute every crime that comes to their attention, and often they do not. Especially in a case such as this, where there was no economic harm and the victim asked that the case be dropped, few prosecutors would proceed. So Ortiz is just lying. Which for her is typical behavior.

  • Barry Kort

    “I know that there is little I can say to abate the anger felt by those who believe that this office’s prosecution of Mr. Swartz was unwarranted and somehow led to the tragic result of him taking his own life.” –U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz

    If the prosecutor is able to recognize the scale of the anger and outrage directed at her office, then surely she must appreciate that the human emotion of anger arises from deep-seated feelings of injustice. What more compelling evidence is there that the outrageous conduct of her office was patently unjust in the most fundamental meaning of the concept of justice?

Most Popular