Transcript: U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz Defends Handling Of Swartz Case


Facing widespread criticism and calls for her removal from office, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz has spoken briefly and dramatically for the first time about the federal case against Aaron Swartz.

Swartz is the former Harvard fellow and Internet activist who was facing federal charges of hacking into an MIT computer network when he took his own life last week. WBUR’s David Boeri reports on the U.S. Attorney’s response.

DAVID BOERI, BYLINE: She had been out of town, but when Carmen Ortiz got back to the office yesterday, more than 40,000 people were petitioning the White House to fire her. Recently retired federal Judge Nancy Gertner said she lacks judgement. Columnist Margery Eagan of the Boston Herald, declared Ortiz was done, “forever linked to bringing the full and frightening weight of the federal government down on a 26-year-old computer genius.”

CARMEN ORTIZ: And I don’t think there’s any explanation that I could possibly give that’s going to make that family feel better.

BOERI: Ortiz answered questions about Aaron Swartz at the end of a press conference where she’d proclaimed the success of a joint state-federal operation against inner city gangs allegedly involved in drug dealing and violence.

ORTIZ: I’ve had an opportunity to talk to prosecutors who were handling, very seasoned and careful prosecutors, I am confident that the process that was entertained, that the evidence that they had, that the charges they brought, that this case was fairly and reasonably and appropriately handled.

BOERI: Ortiz defended her prosecutors, saying they recognized Swartz was not committing acts for personal gain and that he did not warrant severe punishment. Yet several months ago, the government brought nine additional charges against him, so that Swartz was facing 13 felonies. His attorneys claimed that although the government offered to recommend a six-month sentence, prosecutors would only accept a plea if Swartz plead guilty to all 13 counts, as well as accepted other conditions.

BOERI: Ms. Ortiz, the defense attorney for Aaron Swartz says that you insisted that he’d not be able to use a computer for an extended period after he served his sentence.

ORTIZ: I believe the second part of your question is false. And you’ve been around this courthouse a long time, David, that we don’t demand that someone plead guilty to certain charges or that they do a certain sentence. That is a process that is achieved through discussion.

BOERI: Here’s what Swartz’s attorney Elliot Peters had to say:

ELLIOT PETERS: I know that one of the conditions that they wanted to attach to this already unacceptable offer was that Aaron not use a computer and that made no sense and that was a non-starter.

BOERI: As Ortiz answered the next question, her eyes welled up and she paused slightly at several points to keep her composure.

BOERI: Would you do anything differently over again?

ORTIZ: I think when anything this tragic occurs you always have to pause and think and review and we do that. We always strive to do our best. We strive to be fair. We strive to be just. And I have to say that I am terribly upset about what happened here and the kind of allegations that have been made because I pride myself in striving to be fair and reasonable.

BOERI: The room full of reporters, staffers and officials was otherwise still but for the sound of photographers’ motor drives.

BOERI: Did you know that the prosecution, according to the defense, had been alerted that he was suicidal?

ORTIZ: My understanding is that some issues about a year and a half ago came up regarding his mental illness and they were addressed at the arraignment and that’s when they came up.

BOERI: Here too, a disagreement with Swartz’s attorneys. Afterward, Ortiz’s statement was characterized as “nonsense.” The Boston Globe had quoted one Swartz attorney, Andrew Good, as saying, “The thing that galls me is that I told [the prosecutor] the kid was a suicide risk, and he said, ‘Fine, we’ll lock him up.’ ”

The press conference highlighted clear differences between the accounts of the defense attorneys and the prosecution.

ORTIZ: What occurred obviously we did not anticipate, did not expect and it is a terrible tragedy.

BOERI: So far, she’d answered four questions.


ORITZ: David, does anybody else have any questions? Because if not, I’m done. Thank you.

BOERI: The U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, in her first public appearance since the death of Aaron Swartz.

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  • disqus_cTYPCkCVDM

    From New Zealand Ortiz appears to be an ambitiously self-promoting, self-sustaining, ‘dont blame me’ apologist for nobody. And she either speaks mis-truths or has appalling communications with her underlings for which she must go. The head must fall. I hope she enjoys her new work in the private sector.

    • http://profiles.google.com/twogunchuck Chuck Crane

      “Don’t blame me, I was just doing my job,” was the same defense Adolf Eichmann used. It got him hanged. Hopefully it will get Ortiz booted.

  • No_Comment_or

    Prosecutors have increasingly been abusing their power in the US. Currently, the United States has 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of the world’s prison population. It is almost unfathomable to think about how many people undeserving of the label of “felon” are or have served time in prison, through coerced convictions by the threat of decades in prison often for circumstances that warranted little more than a reprimand. Trials are rare these days, and conviction rates run up to 99% in some places. The odds that someone is wrongly convicted is unacceptably high. Only the most grievous miscarriages of justice are brought to light – false death row cases or cases where the wrongly accused and convicted spend a life in prison before they are exonerated. What about the countless cases where a few years in prison, and no redress ever took place were the case? Those people are unlikely ever to get a true second chance.

    Here the prosecutors not only could care less about the accused, but further ignored the will of the “victim” – JSTOR, and abused their power to the fullest extent allowed by the situation, wielding the law as a weapon. Aaron faced nearly 50 years in prison, and they collected a healthy check in the process. Should Aaron had “the gall” to exercise his right to a trial, he would have been severely punished, and perhaps have been convicted and sentenced to a “mere” 10 years in prison. That would have come at a 1/2 million dollar expense to tax payers, and cost us more yet after his release. This money comes from other budgets, it is a cyclic effect, and policies that result in this type of behavior have lasting effects on society.

    As a society, we can’t afford to choose so badly. Fools like the prosecutors responsible for this case have no business in power. They waste our money, our time, and our resources. What good they do is likely negated in part or in whole by the harm they do. One thing nearly every person who goes to prison has in common, is that one day they will be released. If Aaron did go to prison, what sort of person would he be 10 years later? What sort of friends would he make, what sort of skills would he acquire? Given what we know about him, would you guess that the prosecutors helped society, or harmed it by the action they took? Sooner or later, these are the kind of questions that we are going to have to have meaningful answers and actions in response to.

  • public_servant_watch

    The video shows Ortiz giving the reporter asking questions “the look” – it was an evil how dare you do this to me in public look (which was his job that no other Boston bought media reporter bothered to do) sure hope that look didn’t mean “pay backs are a bitch” for this reporter -stay on it David because without a doubt more evil will be revealed that you can expose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1210103603 Mike Mueller

    This woman is disgusting and a menace to this country.

  • jefe68

    U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz needs to become the former U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, period.

  • http://twitter.com/datsneefa Jim Terwiliger

    Carmen Ortiz is the next John N. Mitchell

  • bobplugh

    Ortiz – a worm, crawling around like a bug stuck inside a fettered and festering sore on a jackal’s a**. She deserves nothing better than the most horrible possible diseases known to man – something like ebola – to eat her away live.

  • http://www.huz6.com/ huz

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