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Carmen Ortiz’s Sordid Rap Sheet

***UPDATE***: In Boston federal court on January 24, Magistrate Judge Judith Dein dismissed the government’s attempt to seize Russ Caswell’s motel property.

 

carmen-ortiz

The January 11 suicide of information activist, computer hacker and technical wunderkind Aaron Swartz has focused attention on Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, whose overzealous prosecution may have led to his death. Swartz, co-founder of a website later acquired by Reddit as well as a prime developer of the online publishing infrastructure known as Rich Site Summary (RSS), was under federal indictment for logging into JSTOR—a database of scholarly articles accessible from universities across the country—and downloading its content with the intent to distribute the articles online free of charge.

Despite JSTOR’s subsequent securing of the “stolen” content and refusal to press charges, Swartz was arrested by the feds and charged originally with four felony counts under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. On those charges alone, Swartz was facing a possible 35-year sentence and over $1,000,000 in fines. Just three months ago, a “Superseding Indictment” filed in the case by the U.S. attorney’s office upped the felony count from four to 13. If convicted, Swartz was looking at possibly over 50 years in prison: a conceivable life sentence.

Ortiz, the politically ambitious U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, spearheaded the prosecution against Swartz. “Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar,” Ortiz proclaimed in a 2011 press release. Her point man in the case was Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, a specialist in computer crime and son of Philip Heymann, the United States Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration. Stephen Heymann led the 2010 investigation into Albert Gonzalez, the TJX hacker, in the largest identity fraud case in history. Heymann’s office suspected that one of the unindicted co-conspirators named in that criminal complaint—“JJ”—was Jonathan James, a juvenile hacker who also killed himself two weeks after his house was raided.

The details of the Swartz case are so suggestive of  prosecutorial abuse that they have already led to widespread condemnation of Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann. However, what’s missing from much of the expressed outrage is recognition that the “bullying” tactics employed by Ms. Ortiz are standard operating procedure for federal prosecutors when pursuing criminal cases.

The Great Heist of Tewksbury

With a population just under 30,000, the town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, is hardly considered ground zero for federal drug trafficking crimes. Just off Route 38, the town’s only major thoroughfare, sits the modest Motel Caswell. With just six reviews on tripadvisor.com—one “Poor” and five “Terrible”—even defenders of the $57 per night operation admit its shabby digs: “The Motel Caswell isn’t the Ritz,” its lawyer told a federal courtroom in November 2012. But that didn’t stop the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Ms. Ortiz’s office from trying to seize its assets .

In 2009, the 69-year-old owner, Russ Caswell, received a letter from the DOJ indicating the government was pursuing a civil forfeiture case against him with the intention of seizing his family’s motel—it was built in 1955 by Russ’s father—and the surrounding property. Ms. Ortiz’s office asserted that the motel had been the site of multiple crimes by its occupants over the years: 15 low-level drug offenses between 1994 and 2008 (out of an estimated 125,000 room rentals). Of those who stayed in the motel from 2001 to 2008, .05% were arrested for drug crimes on the property. Local and state officials in charge of those investigations never accused the Caswells of any wrongdoing.

Nor is the U.S. attorney charging Russ Caswell with a crime. The feds are using a vague but increasingly common procedure known as civil asset forfeiture. In criminal forfeiture, after a person is convicted of a crime the state must prove that the perpetrator’s property had a sufficiently strong relationship to the crime to warrant seizure by the government. In civil forfeiture proceedings, the state asserts the property committed the crime, and—under civil law—the burden of proof is on the defense to demonstrate their property is innocent.

“I’ve found…I’m responsible for the action of people I don’t even know, I’ve never even met, and for the most part I have no control over them,” Mr. Caswell told WBUR Boston. “And when they do something wrong, the government wants to steal my property for the actions of those people, which to me makes absolutely no sense. It’s more like we’re in Russia or Venezuela or something.”

According to the sworn testimony of a DEA agent operating out of Boston, it was his job to comb through news stories for properties that might be subject to forfeiture. When he finds a likely candidate, he goes to the Registry of Deeds, determines the value of the property in question, and refers it to the U.S. attorney for seizure. It is DEA policy to reject anything with less than $50,000 equity.

In other cases, that DEA agent testified, the property is brought to his attention by local police departments. He could not recall whether Mr. Caswell’s case was brought by local authorities or picked by his own research. Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokesperson for Ms. Ortiz’s office, maintained in an interview that local police brought the case to DEA. But if Tewksbury’s Finest suspected crime was occurring on specific property, why not initiate an investigation themselves? Why simply hand a case like that over to the feds?

Through a policy known as equitable sharing, “the federal government has the discretion to dispense 80%” of the proceeds of liquidated seized assets “with the local authorities [that] cooperate,” Larry Salzman—attorney for Mr. Caswell—told WhoWhatWhy in an interview. He maintains this provision creates a perverse incentive to initiate such proceedings, even when the investigating authorities have no reason to suspect criminal wrongdoing. “It’s obvious it turns the American idea of innocent until proven guilty on its head.”

When asked about the possibility of an 80% haul that Tewksbury PD stood to gain from the liquidation of Mr. Caswell’s property, Ms. Sterling responded that such processes are referred all the way up through the Department of Justice (DOJ), before any arrangement with local authorities is negotiated: “The equitable sharing process is a lengthy one.”

Mr. Caswell’s family-owned and -operated property was worth approximately $1.5 million with no mortgage—making it a perfect target. Without a bank involved, the likelihood of the Caswells’ mounting a drawn-out legal defense was miniscule. Through a spokeswoman, Ms. Ortiz’s office released a statement at the time of trial on why they were choosing to pursue Mr. Caswell:

“The government believed that this was an important case…because of the deterrent message it sends to others who may turn a blind eye to crime occurring at their place of business.”

Mr. Salzman doesn’t buy the message of deterrence. He asserts that just up the street, a Motel 6, Walmart and Home Depot all operate with similar—in many cases higher—rates of drug crimes on their properties, referencing numbers obtained from the Tewksbury Police Department. An investigation by the Lowell Sun confirms this:

A review of Police Department arrest logs from 2007 through 2012 shows that despite a relatively high number of drug arrests at the Motel Caswell property in recent years, more suspects have been busted on drug-related charges at nearby addresses.

During the examined six-year time period, police made 19 drug arrests at the Motel Caswell at 450 Main St., five fewer than at the property where Walmart is located at 333 Main St. Twenty-six drug arrests were made at each of the properties located at 85 Main St. [Home Depot & Applebees] and 95 Main St. [Motel 6 & IHOP]

But those corporations have extensive financial and legal resources, and would put up much more of a fight than a small business owned and operated by a single family. Before a public interest law firm took on his case, Mr. Caswell had already spent over $100,000 and was near bankruptcy.

Ms. Sterling maintains that Ms. Ortiz’s office has no discretion in which properties are targeted. They simply act as the lawyers for other agencies of the federal government, in this case the DEA.

The Kingpins of Patronage

In March 2012, former Massachusetts Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien was indicted by a federal grand jury under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). With two of his former deputies and alleged co-conspirators, he was charged with “one count of racketeering conspiracy and 10 counts of mail fraud,” according to The Patriot Ledger. Each of the 11 counts carries a sentence of up to 20 years.

The lengthy indictment alleges that the three ran a hiring system for the Massachusetts Probation Department that gave preference to friends and family members of certain legislators and politically connected prospects. Those aforementioned counts of mail fraud consisted of “sending rejection letters to applicants they knew from the start they weren’t going to actually consider.” By this standard, any boss who ever hired a friend’s child—yet sent letters to other applicants in which he claimed they were considered before being rejected, as per standard hiring procedure—has committed mail fraud.

Enacted in 1970 to enable prosecutors to convict leaders of criminal organizations who order subordinates to commit crimes but who are never themselves at the crime scene, RICO statutes have most widely been applied to drug cartels, the Mafia, and terrorist organizations. The logic is simple: if a mob kingpin orders a hit on someone, he has a strong First Amendment case that he isn’t at fault for the murder. Under RICO, the government only needs to prove a relationship between murderer and kingpin within an ongoing criminal organization.

Mr. O’Brien and his codefendants are also under indictment for violating state campaign finance laws. But those are charges being brought by the Attorney General of Massachusetts, Martha Coakley, and are unrelated to the federal indictments issued by Ms. Ortiz’s office.

It is the job of prosecutors to bring malefactors to justice with tools appropriate to the alleged offenses — for example, RICO vs. the Mafia or al-Qaeda. But excessive prosecutorial zeal that regularly aims the biggest guns in the government’s arsenal at the smallest fry can only undermine public support for the justice system itself.  In cases like that of John J. O’Brien and Aaron Swartz, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s penchant for bringing disproportionate charges intended for serious criminals against defendants who pose little or no threat to the public’s well-being suggests either puritanical vengeance or brazen self-promotion.

Speaking While Brown (and Bearded)

Now consider the case of Tarek Mehanna, a Massachusetts pharmacist sentenced to 17 years in prison after being convicted in 2012 of supporting al-Qaeda and conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Ms. Ortiz’s office claimed in the indictment that Mehanna travelled to Yemen with the intent of joining a terrorist training camp — although he never found one.

Upon returning to the U.S., prosecutors allege, Mehanna translated documents written by members of al-Qaeda and posted YouTube videos in support of suicide bombings. The 2010 Supreme Court case Holder v. Humanitarian Law held that “protected speech can be a criminal act if it occurs at the direction of a terrorist organization.” Mehanna was eventually found guilty, although no causal relationship was established between his controversial advocacy against American foreign policy and direction by a designated member of al-Qaeda.

Although her office failed to win the 25-year minimum sentence she had requested, Ms. Ortiz said that Mehanna “faced the consequences of his actions, for conspiring to support terrorists, for conspiring to kill Americans overseas, and for lying to the FBI.”

At his sentencing hearing, Mr. Mehanna claimed he was being persecuted for not cooperating with the FBI, which had pressured him to join its sprawling, thousands-strong network of paid informants and provocateurs (the prime source of most federal terrorism indictments since 9/11):

As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy ” way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard — and the government spent millions of tax dollars – to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.

As I pointed out in an article discussing the assassination by drone strike of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, legal precedent holds that independent political speech—no matter how heinous and suggestive—is protected unless it passes the Brandenburg test of inciting imminent lawless behavior. According to this reading of the law, whether Mehanna simply agreed with al-Qaeda’s message and promoted his own views in that vein or was deliberately ordered to do so by al-Qaeda members, he was still engaging in constitutionally protected speech.

But the Holder interpretation establishes that coordination between a designated terrorist organization and an individual, even to the point of providing that organization with advice to lay down arms and pursue non-violence, constitutes material support for terrorism. This was the precedent cited in finding that Mr. Mehanna was conspiring with terrorist organizations by virtue of his advocacy.

One can debate whether or not that’s an appropriate legal restriction on free speech, and how the Holder ruling can be reconciled with Brandenburg. What shouldn’t be up for debate is the practice of threatening defendants with draconian outcomes—bankruptcy, 25 years in prison—to leverage guilty pleas to lesser crimes or on-going cooperation with the government.

For Carmen Ortiz, Russ Caswell was like the weakest kid on the block who was wearing something she, or the agencies her office represents, coveted. In the cases of Aaron Swartz, Tarek Mehanna and John O’Brien, Ms. Ortiz’s fervency seems to have stemmed from the publicity such cases were sure to generate. All the defendants insisted on their innocence and fought the charges. The jury’s still out on O’Brien and Caswell, but Swartz and Mehanna have paid the price for their defiance.

Although the conduct of Ms. Ortiz’s office may seem disproportionately harsh, this is unfortunately par for the course. Rather than a procedure dictated from Washington, U.S. attorneys and local D.A.’s enjoy broad discretion in the charges they press. Thanks to tough-on-crime laws and mandatory-minimum sentencing, prosecutors are able to extort—if they so choose—a quick end to the proceedings and a headline-worthy admission of guilt. To single out the conduct of Carmen Ortiz as an anomaly of America’s system of mass incarceration would be to misunderstand its character. She is a symptom of the entire disease.

# #

 

***UPDATE***: In Boston federal court on January 24, Magistrate Judge Judith Dein dismissed the government’s attempt to seize Russ Caswell’s motel property.

 

 

GRAPHIC: http://siliconangle.com/files/2013/01/carmen-ortiz.jpg


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  • sgtdoom

    Great points, Mr. B., great info and tremendous points.
    I seem to recall Ortiz didn’t do a very good job with her legal work on The October Surprise, either?

    • Russ

      Thanks, though your praise goes to “Mr S.”– the author of this article, Christian Stork.

    • http://twitter.com/ChristianStork Christian Stork

      Thanks for the kind words, Sgt. To be fair I must claim only basic knowledge of the October Surprise allegations and subsequent investigations. Some sources I’m inclined to trust indicate the accusations by Gary Sick and others were never well-grounded, others (notably Robert Parry, of Iran-Contras fame) cite FOIA’d documents displaying coordination by the Bush I White House with Congressional Republicans to obstruct the investigation. Neither, to my satisfaction, have proven it one way or another. I do know that the composition of the 6-member Senate panel on which Ms. Ortiz sat was disturbing to say the least, insofar as many came from inside DOJ or white-collar defense firms. Given the obstruction being executed from the WH, the Senate investigation should hardly stand as gospel.

  • sfulmer

    The Annie Dookhan case supports the same perspective, which should not overlook judges or a reactionary public.

  • YanquiFrank

    Lets not forget the leniency Ms Ortiz chose to show the big pharma companies that pushed antidepressants on children against FDA rules that likely led to at least a few suicides-by-anti-depressant amongst the teens unlucky enough to have been prescribed these poisons. Ms Ortiz’s discretion is for huge penalties against those who can’t defend themselves and slaps on wrists, at best, for those with deep, powerful pockets. She is the worst kind of careerist human paraquat and deserves intense scrutiny for all she has “achieved”.

  • Dogsrfun

    Google Martha Coakley. She’s another heinous overzealous prosecutor. What gives, Massachusetts?

  • public_servant_watch

    These PIGS have ruined our country – most of them are uncharged criminals themselves and they work with uncharged criminals who freely walk the halls of our courts; they all live off the tax payer —they are vile disgusting people who destroy lives and flaunt their exemption from the same laws that they actually violate while fraudulently prosecuting others . This is why our country is such a freaking mess. We have plenty of real criminals – they need a busy playground apparently–cases that used to be done in a matter of weeks take freaking years.

    The words of Justice Louis Brandeis: “Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law, it invites every man to come a law unto himself. It invites anarchy. (United States v. Olmstead, 277 U.S. 438 (1928).

  • IskenderElRusi

    Petition the Obama administration to: Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-states-district-attorney-carmen-ortiz-office-overreach-case-aaron-swartz/RQNrG1Ck

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

      Again, petitions are just considered as one letter and thrown away; best to have everybody concerned send a ton of snail mail letters to the White House and to your local government representative, as well as send a ton a phone calls to the White House switchboard.

  • Woolwit

    A DEA agent is sitting over coffee, looking through the morning paper for easy (i.e. non-corporate) forfeiture targets, then passing them along to the DA for prosecution? That’s not organized crime? “Between 1989 and 2010, an estimated $12.6 billion was seized by US Attorneys in asset forfeiture cases.” http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/forfeiture

  • Doc

    RSS = Rich Site Summary??? :P

    • http://www.sarwarfaruque.com Sarwar Faruque

      Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication are both acceptable, though the later is more known. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS

      • pland

        Yeah, Rich Site…. first time I’ve ever heard that one..

        • orcasislandtv

          never ever heard anyone use Rich Site Summary. Its Really Simple Syndication.

        • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

          It’s a Site Summary that’s Rich.

  • Ori Klein

    Her ilk deserve to burn on the stake. Bar none.
    They are not human beings. They’re coward, narcissist, corporate scum.
    Humanity has no use for such. They do not serve common good or progress.
    With them, there is no future. Only the dark abyss.

  • wtpayne

    So, basically, U.S. Attorneys and D.A.s can reach out and touch whomsoever they please, without restraint or consequence. Seems to me like all the power is in their hands. I’d give up, go home, and try not to annoy them – Know when the battle is lost.

    • gordon_wagner

      If you think they’re bad, take a look at the EPA and the special rules they’re entitled to play by. You essentially have no recourse whatsoever — you pay through the nose and if you chip about anything you’re looking at TREBLE damages, as awarded by the EPA’s very own court. It’s a nightmare.

    • jahoo

      Sounds like you work for Ortiz and are making a threat to all who comment.

      • wtpayne

        Well, OK, I guess as a sort of irony it did not really come off all that well, but I feel scared and threatened, and I am not even a US citizen.

        • Robert ANderson

          What the world needs is a good “satiricon”.

  • http://twitter.com/JessiDarko Jessica Darko

    This all will make more sense if you simply recognize that government is the mafia. And like you see in every mafia movie, they try to keep “peace in the community” by punishing the bad guys…. but they also are overzealous and, being the primary force in the area, have no check on abusing their position to whatever extent they wish.

    This is why the government steals property and calls it “forfieture” even though no law has been broken. This is why Ortiz can hound a kid to death and pretend like “Stealing is stealing” when in reality, it is she who is living on stolen goods (her salary is stolen from us.)

    • http://twitter.com/noneedtoaggress a

      Spot on.

      “The reason that ideology is so vital to the State is that it always rests, in essence, on the support of the majority of the public. This support obtains whether the State is a “democracy,” a dictatorship, or an absolute monarchy. For the support rests in the willingness of the majority (not, to repeat, of every individual) to go along with the system: to pay the taxes, to go without much complaint to fight the State’s wars, to obey the State’s rules and decrees. This support need not be active enthusiasm to be effective; it can just as well be passive resignation. But support there must be. For if the bulk of the public were really convinced of the illegitimacy of the State, if it were convinced that the State is nothing more nor less than a bandit gang writ large, then the State would soon collapse to take on no more status or breadth of existence than another Mafia gang. Hence the necessity of the State’s employment of ideologists; and hence the necessity of the State’s age-old alliance with the Court Intellectuals who weave the apologia for State rule.”

      -Murray Rothbard

  • Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude

    Could be worse. One rumor circulating after 9/11 was the government mulled a law that would prosecute hostages as collaborators unless they fought to the death to resist capture.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mary.m.mccurnin Mary Margaret McCurnin

      WTF? really? links? I would like to read about this.

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  • orcasislandtv

    Isn’t the problem simply that no one has access to the details of the Swartz prosecution? Where are the notes, recordings, information in this case. Since its no longer an active case that data should be available for a White House investigation of if overreach takes place here. During the Bush administration, the government was turned to an arm of corporate expansion under the justification of ‘its good for our economy’ The broader question is, is this *good for Americans* and for America in the long term. The Swartz case seems to show that the Prosecutors office isn’t being held accountable for anything much more than convictions, rather than the methods used, the *fairness* with which their power is used. If they are fighting terrorism, there’s a level of freedom we’ve all given up. If they are fighting corruption in government groups, fine. If they are fighting oppression of labor, fine. If they are abusing young idealists pushing the edge of a user-agreement for access to academic papers, that resolved their obligations to JSTOR which dropped charges, the question of overreach is explicit. What did they do? Did they actually offer a deal that made sense in this context, or was it, once Aaron had lost everything, *then* they’d start bargaining? In this case perhaps some right to a speedy trial was abused. Trying to find a jury that would convict Aaron might have been quite a problem.

    • http://nomadicpolitics.blogspot.com/ Nomad

      You bring up a good point. Another question is why is “deferred prosecution” -that is, favoring a relatively small fine over prison time in exchange for cooperation- the standard approach when it comes to Wall Street executives investigated for possible crimes but not “little fish” like Mr. Swartz?

      After all, as Oritz says, stealing is stealing. I suppose it is except, apparently, when it comes to powerful corporation-people. Real living and breathing human beings must be easier for the Justice Department to selectively prosecute.

      • orcasislandtv

        I’d like investigators of Ms. Ortiz’s group to come forward with the recordings, notes, and other data on Mr. Swartz. Anything less smells of a coverup.

        I’d like to understand that Ms. Ortiz’ statement – that her office ‘would have accepted’ 6 months in minimum security and a small fine to settle the case, means.

        “Would have” and the ball was in Aaron’s lawyer’s court, or ‘would have’ offered Aaron at some point in the future? There’s a big difference in that nuance. The former begs the question ‘what kind of fear drove Aaron to kill himself?’, and if the latter is true – Ortiz never told Aaron of her office’s willingness to plea bargain to a few months in detention, then Ortiz appears culpable in Aaron’s death.

        I just don’t see this as a storm that is going to ‘blow over’, there’s nothing short of a full investigation of what happened. This is clearly the ‘little guy’ getting hammered by our Government. and *if* in fact, Government’s purpose is to balance the interests of the little guy, with the power of big money, big influence and economic monarchies, the Government needs to respond much more strongly in this case than it has.

        Else we are indeed living in a country where Government’s interests are the interests of a class of citizens Aaron and 95% of Americans do not belong to.

        This case still stinks. No amount of rationalization of the Governments actions has produced a logical, people’s oriented, explanation for the extreme application of the law against a young public-information-freedom fighter, who had little influence over Wall Street.

        I’m waiting for the Executive Branch to explain the service of Ms. Ortiz in the context of Aaron’s case. It also begs the question, how many other Internet freedom seeking individuals are under this kind of pressure? 1 million dollars and 50 years in prison for downloading academic papers? Who does Ms. Ortiz work for?

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  • hruhs

    I have been coping with the US Department of Injustice for a quarter century over a straight forward shakedown attempt by Federal Officials associated with DHHS. This crime was in the context of widespread corruption in the first Reagan administration most remembered for the shoddy scams uncovered at HUD, but which was wide spread. The only effort I have found useful is to have divested myself of all assets and curtailing employment to that that pays cash.

    Herb Ruhs, MD

  • http://johnstephendwyer.com/ John Stephen Dwyer

    Very informative. Very disturbing.

  • http://twitter.com/datsneefa Jim Terwiliger

    Is anyone surprised at the illegal and disgusting actions taken by Carmen and Company?

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  • planckbrandt

    She’ll be with Torquemada in the history books. She chose to be a prosecutor against the People instead for the Plutocracy. Her ignorance of history despite all her degrees will tar her and her family name forever! Everybody in the world knows what is going on here with this Plutocracy coup against the Demos and a real Republic. She chose who she will serve. Meanwhile, she herself was a product of struggles for progress against tyranny. We’ll see how many more people like her they want educated.

  • somebodywhoiscurious

    The 2010 Supreme Court case Holder v. Humanitarian Law held that “protected speech can be a criminal act if it occurs at the direction of a terrorist organization.”

    I had no idea. It makes me consider seeking out a member of Al Qaeda or some other US-certified terrorist organization to ask for a written request that I recite Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in front of the Supreme Court in DC. The idea that protected speech could be criminalized by reason of who directed its utterance is utterly absurd.

  • http://twitter.com/technegro Techngro

    This is nonsensical. The kid did something wrong and didn’t want to pay for it. In fact, he didn’t even want to wait to see if he even had to pay for it. Who knows, he may have gotten off lightly. The fact that he killed himself isn’t a reflection of the justice system. Hundreds of thousands of people go through it every year and DON’T end up killing themselves. It’s more of a reflection of the kids mental state. Who knows what was going through his head. And where were his family members who are now on every news channel and newspaper when he was spiraling down to death? Maybe they should have paid more attention to him when he was alive.

    • http://twitter.com/ChristianStork Christian Stork

      As I understand it, Swartz’s family was mortgaging their house to pay for his legal defense. You’ll also notice that the piece is primarily about Ms. Ortiz’s other, non-deceased victims. So whether the suicide reflects the system or the individual is an interesting question to handle, albeit one I did not set out to do here.

      • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

        A useful cartoon, on the hypocrisy of Federal and State non-prosecution of Fraudclosure / Mortgage-Gate versus their strong-arming of Aaron Swartz, a hero in the fight against the privatization of truth and information:

        1: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-5NVAUxK-bxo/UQXJ8c_UdaI/AAAAAAAABmg/2qmCiD_ip9g/s576/aaron-swartz-fed-oppression-not-like-mortgages-wasserman.jpg

        2: http://c.o0bg.com/rf/image_960w/Boston/2011-2020/2013/01/14/BostonGlobe.com/EditorialOpinion/Images/0115toon_wasserman.jpg

        The way that little scandal (the mortgage one) went down is a great mental blind-spot for virtually everyone in the mainstream media, and of course for the consumers of both mainstream and alternative media.

        Matt Taibbi did a nice bombastic piece on it:
        http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/matt-taibbi-courts-helping-banks-screw-over-homeowners-20101110?print=true

        But the idea, simply summed up, is that the destructively-greedy and fraudulent sub-prime (and up-prime) mortgage lenders — and the securitizers of mortgages (i.e. a bundle of mortgages = a new type tradeable, financialized “security” asset) — were so unscrupulous about coming up with ways to bundle and securitize and “make money” while the making was good, that they (1) fraudulently signed tens of thousands of documents, and (2) can no longer even find the mortgage notes which are traditionally required under state laws to foreclose.

        Yes, people stopped paying mortgages (as was mathematically certain to happen after the bubble popped in 2007), so they don’t “deserve” to keep the houses, but in many cases there’s no longer even a mortgage note for the bank who bought their mortgage to foreclose with. They want to take the houses, but they technically don’t have the papers to do it. So when a courageous lawyer or intelligent, self-respecting dead-beat says “Where’s the note? This legal procedure is unfounded,” the opposing counsel and judge had to admit it was so. This was a mortal threat to our financialized economy.

        I think eventually all the State Attorneys General were taken into backrooms to make deals involving buying off deadbeats, lawyers, and everyone else in the way, with Wall Street funny money (they’ll never run out of money and if they do, the Central Banks and National Treasuries will always find a new exotic way to bail them out with either debt on the backs of the tax-payers and a cognitively dissonant smile, grin, and “nothing wrong here folks” or with ridiculous transfers of thin-air money in exchange for junk assets and the same smile, grin, and statement), and the mainstream media doesn’t explain at all the truth of what happened.

        Too Big For Jail? You better believe it.

        Wake up people!!

    • gordon_wagner

      Threatening some 26 year old with 50 years in prison? For attempting to distribute academic papers!? Horsepoop. Has even a single “too big to fail” banker been indicted???

      • http://twitter.com/technegro Techngro

        I don’t disagree with you. I just think that this kid killed himself and everyone now wants to make it as if Ortiz and the Government pulled the trigger themselves. That’s not what happened. People are prosecuted (justly and unjustly) every day in this country and face serious penalties. Not that many of them kill themselves. So maybe you guys should be looking at the kid and why he did what he did instead of trying to destroy this Ortiz lady.

        • Therealtruth

          why? shes the one who tried to destroy this kid as she tried and many times succeeded in destroying many people for personal political game. how do you think she feels now that shes being prosecuted by public opinion. doesnt feel too good when the shoe is on the other foot does it?

    • jahoo

      Maybe you should realize the article is about the abuses of Ortiz and that this kid and others are not being treated with common sense by the government. Where did you get that he did not wish to pay for his crime? Fifty years to life for downloading or even outright theft is ridiculous.Rapists and child molesters get about 7-14 years but their crimes are against individuals and not corporations. How do you know that Swartz family did not give him any attention while alive? I find your comment to be moronic and at best really insensitive.I think fifty years in jail for downloading or theft is a crime worse than any theft. Have you considered the fact our government has incentive to jail us all and make us all legal slaves. Legal slavery exists in our country in the form of prison industries. What I find most disturbing about your comment is that you read this article about abuses of government and your thought process is to attack the Swartz family along with the dead kid.

      • http://twitter.com/technegro Techngro

        Yeah…i’m assuming that he didn’t want to pay for his crimes because…well, he killed himself. And since everyone is saying that he killed himself because of the prosecution that he was facing, my point is valid. He killed himself because he didn’t want to face the punishment for his crime. It’s fairly simple.

        My other (valid) point was that he didn’t even wait to see what the ACTUAL punishment would be. He may not have gotten anywhere near 50 years as an actual sentence. But he didn’t even wait to see what he was really facing in terms of his punishment.

        And by the way, I never said that I believe a 50 year sentence is justified for what he did, because I don’t. I just don’t believe that HIS action in killing himself should then be transferred to this Ortiz woman. And i’ve seen plenty of “Ortiz/The Government murdered Swartz”. No they didn’t. He did that.

        Yeah, i’m a mean evil old man. How dare I even think that there are two sides to a story. I should know better and just stfu and take whatever the consensus view is and swallow it whole. Especially when the consensus is that the government is enslaving us all and the corporations are really in control and…rofl. Whatever.

        As I said in a previous post. If this kid was so tech savvy, then maybe he should have Googled the penalties for what he was doing. Could have saved him a lot of trouble and possibly his life.

        • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

          Your points are valid, however, in the context of what’s really going on in our country right now, you are ultimately doing what is called “blaming the victim”.

          Your points do stand about not wanting to just let him off scot-free, and not wanting to completely villanize the prosecutors, but it’s the greater context that matters.

          I recommend you read a comment I gave to Christian Stork on this page, on the ultimate hypocrisy of Ortiz.

          * * *

          Our old systems of privatizing-everything and having two tiers of justice for the super-rich versus the common people have now gone critically haywire.

          Try doing what the young people are doing right now, you “evil old man”: try stepping outside your comfort zone and learning something new about how awful the corruption is in your country.

  • commenter8
    • Peeper

      What is the point of a petition? If they are fired, they will only be replaced by other a-holes. This is problem with the federal government, not individual players.

      • Therealtruth

        very true. but the american public also has to send a message to these thugs

  • Bruce
    • bob

      The Globe is completely compromised on that story. They have very close connections to the MA judges who wanted O’Brien out. It pains me to say but I can’t trust anything they write anymore.

  • Jamie Wolf

    Excellent piece… sprightly writing, interesting facts, relatively disinterested tone… Well done!

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  • gordon_wagner

    Ms. Ortiz and her ilk have zero business being in public office. Get rid of them. This country is heading in the wrong direction.

  • Feda Killa

    Federal prosecutors pose a greater danger than those they are purportedly protecting us from. Is the public finally waking up?

  • Orestis

    Yes, Ms. Ortiz: Aaron’s blood is on that hand of your’s.

  • Pingback: Christian Stork: The Megalomania of Aaron Swartz Prosecutor Carmen Ortiz | The Internet Chronicle

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  • Jessica

    The people that are pushing for forfeiture need to remember that the Supreme Court of the US ruled that the forfeiture needs to “Fit the crime”.

    Since the owners have done nothing illegal there is nothing to confiscate. This is Government bullying, pure and simple and highly disgusting.

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  • advocatus diaboli

    The sentences asked for against Schwartz were insane considering most murderers are sentenced to 12 and do 8 for good behavior. The guy took some PDFs for spaghetti-monster’s sake. It was certainly a non-violent crime and no non-violent crime should carry, as a maximum sentence, any greater length than the minimum for a violent crime. Period.

    • nathenism

      he doesn’t

  • Pingback: Prosecutor Steps On The Gas After Swartz’ Death | Politiva

  • runnerin1

    I guess this explains why no one in the banking industry has been indited. Apparently, these assholes are using their power to go after you and I.

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  • IskenderElRusi

    Please add your voice to this Petition: Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-states-district-attorney-carmen-ortiz-office-overreach-case-aaron-swartz/RQNrG1Ck

    • onetree

      Signed it! Thanks.

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  • Douglas

    mexican trash doing the devils work.

    • https://sites.google.com/site/themattprather Matt Prather

      Tell me more?

    • russbaker

      Your racism is showing. And she’s not even Mexican.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Frank-Reed/100003466519585 Frank Reed

    Simple chemistry folks! Mix 2 or more chemicals that don’t ‘get along’ with each other, this is what you get!
    And don’t forget, they ARE ELECTED people! They got enough low/no info voters to ‘pull the trigger’

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  • fromaway46

    I see she is front and center again thanks to the Boston Marathon bombing hoax. Right up her alley.

    • Guest

      yeah, young handsome men are always the most fun to destroy!

  • http://httprussianfreedomforumlefora.com/ shablon

    After reading the above stories of banal injustice in US, I am looking for a place to go away from here

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  • Maggie

    Would love to see them pull this little seizure stunt on the Hilton, Inter-Continental, Sheriton etc hotel chains. How many high crimes have been plotted and committed in their bars, restarants and rooms?

  • Pingback: Carmen Ortiz’s Sordid Rap Sheet | American Samizdat

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  • AnonyFoxx

    How is Carmen Ortiz related to the shooting at Sandy Hook?

  • Skip Kapur

    This prosecutor may be over zealous, but the system is at the core of this corruption. Just reading how they go after properties makes my blood boil. I voted for Obama to make this go away. didn’t happen.

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  • onetree

    My guess is this woman will eventually be dismissed and maybe even prosecuted for corruption (the sooner the better).

    What better place for crooks than in the justice system.

  • Pingback: New Federal Indictment Over Iran Sanctions Breach Demonstrates Reach of Nuclear Disinformation | MasterAdrian's Weblog

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