When news spread that Aaron Swartz, co-founder of the popular site Reddit and co-author of the RSS specification, had committed suicide, shock and sadness quickly turned to anger, with many blaming the government for driving Swartz to such desperate measures with its aggressive prosecution of Swartz over the downloading of academic journals from MIT. Even Swartz’s family, rather than issuing the usual plea for privacy, came out swinging, issuing a statement the following day directly connecting the U.S. attorney’s office with Swartz’s suicide:
Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims.
Tom Dolan, an IBM executive and husband of U.S. attorney Carmen Ortiz, wasn’t content to let the charges against his wife and her office go unanswered. He posted several tweets defending the government’s actions before deleting his Twitter account. Among his posts was a challenge to the idea that Swartz was facing 30 years in prison, noting that Swartz was offered a plea bargain of six months. The tweets were archived by the aggregation site Topsy.
Laura Rozen reports that the tweets were not approved by the prosecutor’s office, which has declined to comment on Swartz’s death out of respect for his family’s privacy. Although Rozen says that no one in the office is planning to resign, members of the public have started a petition to have Ortiz removed. That petition, created just last Saturday, has already received more than 32,000 signatures, guaranteeing a response from the White House.
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Correction: This post originally incorrectly identified Ortiz as Massachusetts attorney general. That office is held by Martha Coakley. Twitchy regrets the error.