US Attorney’s Official Statement on Aaron Swartz. I Call BS.

T-shirt design: "Sounds like bullshit to me"

And so the spin doctoring begins: Carmen Ortiz, the US Attorney in the case against Aaron Swartz has released an official statement its tragic outcome. Here is a transcript of the full statement:


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.

Her line “a sentence that we would recommend to the judge of six months in a low security setting” is markedly different from this announcement on the US Attorney’s Office announcement dated July 19, 2011, where it states:

AARON SWARTZ, 24, was charged in an indictment with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer. If convicted on these charges, SWARTZ faces up to 35 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and a fine of up to $1 million.

The fact that they added an extra 9 counts of felony charges to the original four in September 2012 suggests they weren’t going for a sentence of “six months in a low security setting”. This was a “juicy” case for the prosecuting attorney, who almost has a track record for driving programmers to suicide (I agree with Sir Ian Fleming: Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action, and thus far, “Suicide Steve’s” body count is steady at two).

What should also be taken into account is that Ortiz is a likely gubernatorial candidate, and is worried that Aaron’s suicide may thwart her political ambitions. Boo hoo.

I cannot write further about this topic without losing my usual Zen, and I need to get a lot of work done today. I’ll simply close with this video from Democracy Now that I found via Lessig: