Swartz prosecutor: We only pushed for 'six months' in the cooler

'There is little I can say to abate the anger', says Ortiz


US attorney Carmen Ortiz, who led the fraud case against Aaron Swartz until his suicide last week, has defended her prosecution of the internet prodigy.

Swartz, 26, took his life on Friday at his home in New York in the midst of a lengthy court battle that could have put him behind bars for decades. He was charged with computer fraud after copying 4.8 million scientific articles from the nonprofit journal archive JSTOR to allegedly redistribute online.

According to his defence lawyers, the Reddit co-founder killed himself shortly after learning that the prosecution would not consider a plea bargain that would rule out a jail sentence.

Within days of his death, an online petition was created urging President Obama to fire Ortiz after Swartz's family said their son's suicide was "the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach". The web appeal, hosted by the White House website, has collected at least 40,000 signatures.

Today, Ortiz, the US attorney for the district of Massachusetts, said her "office's conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case". She claimed that her team had not pushed for an unduly severe punishment.

"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," she said in a statement.

"The prosecutors recognised that there was no evidence against Mr Swartz indicating that he committed his acts for personal financial gain, and they recognised that his conduct – while a violation of the law – did not warrant the severe punishments authorised 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 defence counsel would have been free to recommend a sentence of probation. Ultimately, any sentence imposed would have been up to the judge."

Swartz faced 13 felony charges including counts of wire fraud, computer fraud and recklessly damaging a protected computer, which could cumulatively carry a sentence of more than 30 years.

The federal attorney's statement, the first time she's been drawn to comment on Swartz's death, also offered her sympathies to his family and friends.

"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," she said. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022