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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Federal Prosecutor Says Aaron Swartz Case Handled Well

Aaron Swartz is pictured at Boston Wiki Meetup in August 2009.  (ragesoss/Flickr)

Aaron Swartz is pictured at Boston Wiki Meetup in August 2009. (ragesoss/Flickr)

A federal prosecutor criticized over criminal charges against an Internet activist who killed himself in New York says her office’s handling of the case was “appropriate.”

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz on Wednesday extended her “heartfelt sympathy” to Swartz’s loved ones but continued to defend the charges against him and said her office had acted properly. She said she understood there was anger felt by people who believe her office’s prosecution of Swartz was unwarranted and was tied to his suicide.

“I must, however, make clear that this office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case,” Ortiz said in an emailed statement. “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.”

Ortiz had said earlier that “stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars” and that the victim is harmed “whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away.” But she insisted her office never sought maximum penalties in Swartz’s case and never told his attorneys it intended to.

Swartz was charged with 13 felonies in 2011 after he was accused of using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s computer network to illegally download nearly 5 million academic articles.

Friends say he was a shy young man who felt government and big business had hijacked the Web.

Swartz’s death has touched off a backlash against prosecutors. He has been eulogized as a martyred hero since his suicide last week.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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