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Fri Jan 18, 2013, 01:02 PM

Carmen Ortiz Strikes Out ( Scott Horton, Harper's )


January 18, 2013

Congress prepares to slap down prosecutors linked to the suicide of Aaron Swartz

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz is fighting to hold on to her job, and to avoid an embarrassing grilling in Congress and possible professional disciplinary proceedings. Her prospects look grim. Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chair of the House Committee on Oversight is pledging a vigorous and critical inquiry into her management of the dubious criminal prosecution of Aaron Swartz, one of the greatest computer prodigies of his generation, who committed suicide a week ago, apparently convinced that out-of-control prosecutors had destroyed his life. While Issa’s prior attempts to take aim at the DOJ have fizzled, this one is garnering significant bipartisan support: Zoe Lofgren (D., Calif.) is introducing “Aaron’s Law,” expressly overturning the interpretations upon which Ortiz proceeded against Swartz, while Jared Polis (D., Colo.) blasted the prosecutor’s case as “ridiculous and trumped-up.” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who would have a say in the appointment of Ortiz’s successor, was unstinting in her praise for Swartz as a person who “wouldn’t hurt a fly” and whose acts demonstrated a “powerful commitment” to the betterment of society. Nancy Gertner, a recently retired federal judge who is intimately familiar with both prosecutors, lambasted them in a broadcast interview, parsing and ridiculing the claims they had made against Swartz and suggesting that the case should have been dismissed. At funeral services in Highland Park, Illinois, on Tuesday, Swartz’s father charged that his son had been “killed by the government.” While some might ascribe this to the anguish of a bereaved father, scholars and investigators poring over the record of the Swartz prosecution are increasingly shocked at the scope and outrageousness of the prosecutorial misconduct that he faced.

Prosecutors Ortiz and Stephen Heymann turned to a standard trick while pursuing the case, mounting a total of thirteen felony counts against Swartz and arguing that his college prank aimed at “liberating” a collection of academic articles with little commercial value was a serious crime. Although each of these counts bordered on the preposterous, Ortiz and Heymann clearly reckoned that at least one or two would stick during the jury-room bargaining process. More to the point, they assumed that the risk of their success even on bogus charges would be enough to pressure Swartz into accepting a guilty plea on all the counts in exchange for a reduced sentence — which is what they offered him. The process was fundamentally corrupt and shameful. But observers of the American criminal-justice system also know that it was a common one.

The details that have emerged since Swartz’s death have only strengthened calls for the removal and punishment of the prosecutors. Swartz’s lawyers revealed, for example, that when their client’s suicidal nature was noted during their failed efforts to get the charges reduced to a misdemeanor level, Heymann responded by saying “Fine, we’ll lock him up.” Prosecutors were also revealed to have offered a reduced sentence, but only if Swartz pleaded guilty to every charge. This is clear evidence of oppression geared to advance prosecutorial careers, not to serve the interests of justice. Britain’s Daily Mail showed that Swartz was not the only youthful alleged hacker whom Heymann had hounded to suicide — twenty-four-year-old Jonathan James took his own life in 2008, six months after his home was searched in a raid coordinated by Heymann. The DOJ undertook no internal probe of that case, instead giving Heymann an award for “distinguished service.” In the Swartz case, the prosecutors claimed they were acting on behalf of two injured parties — JSTOR and MIT. But JSTOR disagreed with this characterization, including the attorneys’ use of the word “theft,” and demanded that they drop the case. And unnamed sources at MIT this week pointed their fingers at the federal prosecutors, insisting that their unreasonableness and intransigence had kept the case moving despite dishonest charges.

Ortiz’s first defender was her husband, who, without disclosing their relationship, issued a series of false statements on Twitter before being exposed and then deleting them. Now Ortiz has come forward to speak for herself. Her statement offers no apology to Swartz’s family; audaciously whitewashes the facts by stating that she never claimed Swartz sought to profit from the publication of the papers, when in fact she repeatedly implied exactly that; and shows no remorse or contrition. She states that she is unable to respond to charges that her conduct led to Swartz’s death, but tenaciously insists that what she did was “appropriate.”

in full: http://harpers.org/blog/2013/01/carmen-ortiz-strikes-out/

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Reply Carmen Ortiz Strikes Out ( Scott Horton, Harper's ) (Original post)
Jefferson23 Jan 2013 OP
MannyGoldstein Jan 2013 #1
Jefferson23 Jan 2013 #2
Blue_Tires Jan 2013 #3
Jefferson23 Jan 2013 #4
proverbialwisdom Jan 2013 #5

Response to Jefferson23 (Original post)

Fri Jan 18, 2013, 01:18 PM

1. When Issa and Warren agree...

Awful tragedy, but fortunately it looks like the guilty will not go unpunished.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #1)

Fri Jan 18, 2013, 01:27 PM

2. My thoughts too, hopefully some level of justice for the young man's family. n/t

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Response to Jefferson23 (Original post)

Fri Jan 18, 2013, 04:38 PM

3. Sadly, "stacking" of charges is a very, very common tactic, even

against "real" criminals...

I'm happy to see so much DU support for justice for Swartz; but I'll never understand why his "over-prosecuted" case gets so much love, while random teenagers who get fined like $250,000 by the feds for having a few downloaded MP3s deserved to have the book thrown at them...

(I'm not joking...Search the archives and see the general DU reaction for those stories...)

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Response to Blue_Tires (Reply #3)

Fri Jan 18, 2013, 07:19 PM

4. The case as presented was egregious in nature, aggressive unethical prosectutor, kid was brilliant

accomplished, had a sense of social justice/purpose, but most important exception to the other stories you speak of..he was famous/well known.

I agree, far too many young people are pounced on by the feds..it's bullshit.

I am sad to hear anyone here in great numbers would support such prosecutorial over-reach.

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Response to Jefferson23 (Original post)

Fri Jan 18, 2013, 08:09 PM

5. WBUR: Retired Federal Judge Joins Criticism Over Handling Of Swartz Case.

Last edited Sat Jan 19, 2013, 01:11 AM - Edit history (1)

http://www.wbur.org/2013/01/16/gertner-criticizes-ortiz-swartz

Retired Federal Judge Joins Criticism Over Handling Of Swartz Case

By David Boeri
January 16, 2013


BOSTON — A prominent retired federal judge is adding to the chorus of criticism of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz following the suicide of Aaron Swartz last Friday.

<>

For 17 years, Nancy Gertner sat as a federal judge here in Boston. She says she was troubled by much of what she learned and saw from the bench before leaving in 2011. And she says Ortiz should not have prosecuted Swartz.

“Just because you can charge someone with a crime, just because a technical crime has been committed, doesn’t mean you should,” Gertner said.

<>


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