Law and Order

U.S. Attorney’s Office Issues Statement Defending Prosecution of Aaron Swartz

"I must, however, make clear that this office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case."
Mr. Swartz (Photo: Raw Story)

Mr. Swartz. (Photo: Raw Story)

Following intense outcry and mounting pressure for her resignation in the wake of the suicide of hacker activist Aaron Swartz, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz has penned a statement, issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, defending her actions in Mr. Swartz’s prosecution.

“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,” the statement reads. “I must, however, make clear that this office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case.”

Ms. Ortiz’s family also jumped into the fray this week. On Tuesday her husband Tom Dolan, an executive at IBM, took to Twitter to defend her actions in a number of tweets that one former prosecutor called “mind-bogglingly offensive.” He has since deleted his Twitter account.

The official statement comes days after Mr. Swartz’s funeral, where his father reportedly blamed the government for his son’s suicide. Mr. Swartz’s lawyer has also gone on record saying that the prosecution was more focused on building a “juicy” case than a fair one.

California Rep. Zoe Lofgren is attempting to honor Mr. Swartz by proposing amendments to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the law that allowed the government to threaten Mr. Swartz which such a harsh punishment.

Below is the full statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

STATEMENT OF UNITED STATES ATTORNEY CARMEN M. ORTIZ REGARDING THE DEATH OF AARON SWARTZ

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.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com