Prosecutor defends handling on Internet activist case

Jan 17, 2013
A US prosecutor at the center of a controversy over the handling of a case involving an Internet activist who committed suicide has defended the government's actions as "appropriate."

A US prosecutor at the center of a controversy over the handling of a case involving an Internet activist who committed suicide has defended the government's actions as "appropriate."

Assistant US Attorney Carmen Ortiz expressed regret over the death of Aaron Swartz, who was accused of illegally copying and distributing millions of academic articles from a database but said prosecutors were merely doing their job.

"I know 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," she said in a statement Wednesday.

She added that "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."

Ortiz said that contrary to media reports, prosecutors had no intention of seeking the maximum 35 years imprisonment for Swartz and that in plea negotiations offered to recommend six months in "a low-security setting."

She said any sentencing would have been decided by a judge and that defense lawyers could have argued for probation if Swartz agreed to plead guilty.

The case has ignited a flurry of comments over what some called a "draconian" US computer crime law used by allegedly overzealous .

Swartz, who was just 14 when he co-developed the RSS feeds that are now the norm for publishing frequent updates online and went on to help launch website Reddit, hanged himself in his New York apartment on Friday.

He was 26 and reported to have been battling depression.

He had been due to stand trial in April for allegedly breaking into a closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to plug into the and download millions of academic journal articles from the subscription-only JSTOR service.

US Representative Zoe Lofgren this week proposed a reform of the statute used by the prosecution in a proposal she dubbed "Aaron's Law."

"There's no way to reverse the tragedy of Aaron's death, but we can work to prevent a repeat of the abuses of power he experienced," the lawmaker wrote on Reddit.

"The government was able to bring such disproportionate charges against Aaron because of the broad scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the wire fraud statute. It looks like the government used the vague wording of those laws to claim that violating an online service's user agreement or terms of service is a violation of the CFAA and the wire fraud statute."

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penguinator
not rated yet Jan 17, 2013
The article is quite complete and balanced. Only lacking in one thing, and that is a link to the White House petition, as follows:
(The URL that _should have_ appeared here is being blocked by this site's BBS software. Follow the directions at the end of the post, and your search engine will show you a page from Amazon, with the link you should have seen here, right at the top.)

Obama may very well pay no attention to it, but it will 'send a message' when the number of signatures is publicized -- as well as providing legislators attempting to remedy this, with a measure of the public's support.

There is a White House petition under way, for those who believe the prosecutor's explanation of reasons for the Swartz suicide to be inadequate. The more signatures, the better, to possibly 'send a message'.

Here are appropriate search terms you may use:

petition whitehouse "remove-united-states-district-attorney-carmen-ortiz-office-overreach-case-aaron-swart
deatopmg
3 / 5 (2) Jan 17, 2013
This is a classic case of bullying by DOJs definition.