Federal Attorney Carmen Ortiz Must Go

Once again Boston Federal Prosecutor Carmen Ortiz has overreached and ruined the life yet another promising young man. When Internet prodigy Aaron Schwartz downloaded 4 million academic articles from the JSTORE site (legally, with a guest login at MIT), she (with MIT’s backing) threw the book at him, charging him with 13 dubious felony charges for what should have been a civil matter. The Feds offered Schwartz a four-month sentence if he pleaded guilty to all charges. He declined, and committed suicide rather than face a million-dollar trial. Read more at http://www.wbur.org/2013/01/15/swartz-attorney-ortiz

Ortiz is the same prosecutor who put the young Tarek Merhanna of Sudbury in Federal prison for 18 years on trumped-up charges of terrorism. Like Merhanna, Schwartz held dissident beliefs, in this case on intellectual property rather than religion. Schwartz did nor hack any more than Merhanna shot or bombed.

Ortiz is a disgrace to the principles of justice and should be forced to resign. She is a present danger to civil liberties in this country. We have had enough of her brand of law enforcement and the homeland security fetishism that is casting unconstitutional dragnets and bent on making dissidence a crime.

I want my state and federal representatives to condemn Ms. Ortiz’s actions and go on record to urge her to step down. Frankly, I think Attorney General Eric Holder should also leave office. His record on upholding civil liberties is much more dismal than that of Ortiz, and the courts are being cowed by DoJ suits into accepting whatever the government says when pressing charges of subversion and alleged terrorism based on flimsy secret evidence. Our founding fathers would weep if they witnessed these kangaroo courts.

Published by Geoff Dutton

Belmont resident since 1998. Technical write/editor and essayist.

7 replies on “Federal Attorney Carmen Ortiz Must Go”

  1. I’m not prepared to pass judgment on Carmen Ortiz personally, but I do feel that the sentencing threats in federal court have gotten way out of line and created an intimidating environment where many cases that should be tried are settled on unfavorable terms just to avoid the risk of an outrageous outcome. The choice that this young man faced seems to have been an unfair one.

  2. I’m not sure what it would take for you to be so prepared, Mr. Brownsberger, but if (retired) Federal Judge Nancy Gertner can strongly criticize Ortiz’s judgment, why can’t an elected official question it?


    And if she has simply been following DoJ instructions to throw the book at dissidents, that criticism should go right up the line. The first amendment is on that line.

  3. This case strikes me as being at least as egregious as Ortiz’ other missteps.


    It’s worth noting that Ortiz’ is far from the only party worthy of blame in this case. The whole concept of civil forfeiture needs to be reconsidered as does the war on drugs.

    Will, maybe you’re not in a position to look at Ortiz’ complete record, but you are in a position to weigh in on the cases presented in this thread. In the private sector, a single debacle as big as these is grounds for termination, regardless of what happened before.

  4. It isn’t just the outsized penalties that are the problem. The way to get ahead in the DoJ system is to win cases, not to pursue justice. The way to win is to hammer small fry with splashy indictments, people who don’t have resources to defend themselves. Ortiz is exhibit A, but as Paul says, is far from unique in this respect. DoJ is squandering its resources to rack up points at the expense of the rule of law. If you were a member of the Mass congressional delegation, would you be willing to investigate how DoJ sets priorities and try to rectify that skewed reward system? It’s important, because damned few powerful figures and institutions that have screwed us badly have been brought to task by federal prosecutors, let alone done time. That has to change or justice will be a meaningless word.

  5. Sure — I would be happy to play a role in an investigation done in a careful way. That would be within my scope of interest in protecting human rights — I view our overuse of incarceration as a very real human rights issue today.

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