Petition to investigate the possible abuse of power by US District
Attorney Carmen Ortiz and others in the Aaron Swartz case
David Booth, 16-Jan-2013
Aaron Swartz persecution by prosecutors: incompetence or criminal abuse
As more of the facts of the Aaron Swartz "hacking" case have been
revealed to the public, it is not clear that Aaron's actions in
downloading academic journal articles were illegal at all. But it
is patently clear that his actions did not justify the extraordinarily
harsh persecution that he received at the hands of US prosecutor Carmen
Ortiz and assistant prosecutor Stephen Heymann, even if guilty.
Prosecutors have wide latitude in deciding who and how to prosecute,
and the effects of their prosecution can be devastating, whether the
accused is innocent or guilty. Prosecutors therefore bear a
responsibility to use that power appropriately and fairly.
Aaron faced criminal charges that (if he won) in the best case would
likely have cost him over $1 million in legal fees plus much time and
anguish, and (if he lost) in the worst case could have cost him
an additional $4 million in fines and up to 50 years in
prison. All this for downloading academic journal articles.
A bully whose victim is driven to suicide is not solely responsible for
the victim's death, nor are prosecutors Ortiz and Heymann solely to
blame for Aaron's suicide. But they do bear responsibility for
their own prosecutorial abuse, and they must be held accountable for it
-- professionally and criminally -- whether that abuse is the result of
incompetence, negligence or intent.
Was the prosecutor's egregiously disproportionate pursuit of Aaron
Swartz simply a display of gross incompetence? Or was it a
selfishly or politically motivated, criminal abuse of power?
In the wake of this tragic loss of a brilliant young citizen whose
clear passion and goal was freedom of information for the public good
-- the very foundation of a our democracy -- the public deserves a full
and independent investigation into the prosecutorial excesses that
contributed to Aaron's death.