Prosecutor gives emotional defense in hacker case
BOSTON (WHDH) -- A federal prosecutor broke her silence and opened up about her office's controversial prosecution of a case against a prominent Internet hacker.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz spoke out Thursday about the suicide of young Internet entrepreneur and activist Aaron Swartz.
Critics claim Ortiz was overzealous in prosecuting him for fraud after Swartz allegedly downloaded millions of pages of academic journals from MIT's database a few years ago with the intent to distribute them free online.
At his funeral near Chicago Tuesday, Swartz' father, Robert, told mourners "He was killed by the government, and MIT betrayed all of its basic principles."
“I don't think there's any explanation that I could possibly give that's going to make that family feel better,” Ortiz said during a news conference. “I have to say that I am terribly upset about what happened here and the kind of allegations that have been made because I pride myself in striving to be fair and reasonable.”
Swartz, indicted in 2011, faced trial in April and the possibility of serving up to 35 years in prison if convicted.
Protesters gathered outside the Federal Courthouse in South Boston on Thursday.
“They harassed him into an early grave,” a protester said.
Ortiz says her office offered Swartz's lawyers a deal which would have meant a six month sentence if he pled guilty.
“I feel comfortable and I support the process that was done here. But of course, I think it's human nature and certainly my nature to -- let's pause, let’s look at how this case was handled,” said Ortiz.
Swartz had apparently suffered from depression and it’s not yet clear what role his legal troubles played in his suicide on Jan 11.