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Prosecutor Ortiz Defends Charges Against Swartz

This article is more than 10 years old.

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.

This program aired on January 16, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.


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