Petition: Remove Aaron Swartz Prosecutor
Citizens outraged over the apparent Jan. 11 suicide of 26-year-old Reddit cofounder Aaron Swartz are signing a petition on the White House’s Web site calling for the removal of U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz. The petition, which already has more than 28,000 signatures, claims Ortiz used the powers granted by his office to hound Swartz “into a position where he was facing a ruinous trial, life in prison and the ignominy and shame of being a convicted felon; for an alleged crime that the supposed victims did not wish to prosecute.”
Swartz was arrested in 2011 after he allegedly used a laptop to download 4.8 million academic papers from the JSTOR database at MIT in order to make them available free on the Internet. JSTOR and Swartz settled the dispute, but MIT notified law enforcement, leading to Swartz’ prosecution.
Swartz—well-known in the world of Internet activism—faced up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines. His suicide occurred days after the Massachusetts attorney’s office refused a plea deal, insisting Swartz—who had publically suffered from depression—plead guilty to all counts and serve jail time.
A prosecutor who does not understand proportionality and who regularly uses the threat of unjust and overreaching charges to extort plea bargains from defendants regardless of their guilt is a danger to the life and liberty of anyone who might cross her path,” the petition states.
The petition has already exceeded the 25,000 signature threshold required to guarantee a response from the White House. Wouldn’t it be poetic justice if an Internet petition spurred by the tragic loss of Swartz—who dedicated his life to using the Internet as a tool for social justice—led to his prosecutor’s dismissal?
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