Torvalds slams prosecutor for Swartz's suicide

Torvalds slams prosecutor for Swartz's suicide

Summary: Linux founder Linux Torvalds claimed that Carmen Ortiz zealously prosecuted 24-year-old hacktivist Aaron Swartz starting in 2011 and that this led in part to his untimely death by suicide.


Linux inventor and big open source backer Linus Torvalds hinted that he blames the prosecutor in part for the death of hacker-activist Aaron Swartz earlier this month.

In a blog last week, Torvalds points out that prosecutor Carmen Ortiz denied that she zealously prosecuted the 26 year old but showed through press clips in 2011 that Ortiz was singing a different tune back then. 

Torvalds basically called Ortiz a liar who should atone for what some say was her zealous over-prosecution of Mr Swartz, who committed suicide in mid January. 

"I haven't bothered to mention the whole sad Aaron Swartz saga, because it's been covered elsewhere," Torvalds wrote on Jan. 17. "But having the involved US attorney then basically lie about it all in a very public statement is something that I find particularly offensive."

"Compare these two statements - one from July 2011, one from yesterday, and tell me Carmen Ortiz isn't lying," Torvalds posted on January 17. 

First, he cited Ortiz's comments to the Wall Street Journal after Swartz's death this month:

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.

Yet, Torvalds points out that the government was seeking very serious criminal penalties against the young hacktivist in 2011. Swartz was facing dozens of years in prison for allegedly trying to make MIT academic journal articles public.

"Swartz faces up to 35 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, restitution, forfeiture and a fine of up to $1 million," the government charged. 

Torvalds goes on to say that an apology is the least she and her office can do. 

"Ms Ortiz, just admit you were an ass-hat, and apologize," Torvalds wrote. "Instead of this kind of crap. Weasel-wording and misleading about your actions is not making your office look any better."

Topic: Legal

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  • Torvalds slams prosecutor for Swartz's suicide

    that's the problem with these flies. upon landing on the back of a powerful beast, they thought of themselves to be mightier than the animal they ride on ...
    • agreed...

      after all who really cares what Torvalds has said about most anything.. he's certainly not someone I would bother taking any notice of.
      • well many simpletons

        would agree with you but people that are making the calls have a brain, if you haven't noticed. And Linus Torvalds is a name that carry respect, wide across our field. We are not talking Monkeyboy here. We are talking one of the top5 most influencial people in technology.
      • everyone cares only

        what Aussie_Troll says.
  • Ortiz doesn't owe anyone an apology

    Maybe it was too much, maybe not enough, who knows. What is known is that what Swartz did was wrong.

    Knowing that, isn't that the time he should have said "if I get caught I could get a years probation, or the maximum whatever that may be. I'll check on that"

    Had he not done what he did, would any of this have happened? It's always a game until they get caught, then its "everyone else is wrong, not me".
    William Farrel
    • Define "Wrong"

      There are people who commit homicides who get out in less than 35 years. It is so completely backwards that people who harm no one, and seek to help everyone(save for greedy moneygrubbers) end up incarcerated for far longer than murderers. Also, if you would bother to research what he was actually trying to do, it wasn't even really wrong at all within the limits of the law. Everything he did, he tried to do within completely legal means, utilizing the Freedom of Information Act to its fullest extent.

      Just because our government declares something "illegal" doesn't change whether it's right or wrong.
      Rory Pfeifer
    • 35 years in prison

      Is the punishment awarded to the terrorist David Hedley who orchestrated the terrorist attack on Mumbai, which claimed 16 lives + a lot of damages economically. And giving the same plus a 1 million dollar fine to Aron!!!! Someone should get their priorities right, lesser punishment for a terrorist.
    • Yes she does

      She was trying to make an example of someone(most likely for personal/political gain) instead of doing her job and making sure justice was being served.

      Just a guess here, William, but do you only roll Lawful Paladins?
  • I don't know but are not Prosecutors "SUPPOSE" to be zealous?

    Isn't that their thing?

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • Her problem is not that she was zealous

      Her problem was that when it went south, rather than saying "I did my job, as ugly as it is some times, but always necessary", she chose to lie about it.
      • In the end when all is said and done does it matter?

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
        • it does matter

          The reason is called "justice". If it's not, any criminal can always use the same excuse to get away.
        • It matteres

          Else the prosecutors can start calling justice as just us, similar pronunciation.
    • zealous is getting the facts correct

      but proportionate in the execution. she was just bigging herself up for politics sake, maybe she was a fan of Steve Jobs
  • more the cause

    So few solid thought leaders out there.
    Cloud Front
  • I for one think Linus Torvolds opinion...

    On a tech related issue is both valuable and valid. He is knee deep in the technology world and as somebody that works to promote open source he probably knows a lot more about intelectual and electronic property laws then all of us.

    If he feels that the prosecutor in this case has overstepped her statutory bounds in the pursuit of an overly harsh conviction then I for one think we ought to pay attention. He didn't get to be respected in this community for bsing, he got respect for being open and honest for what he belives is either right or wrong.

    Any person that thinks that linus torvolds opinion isn't worth
    • continued... ( my phone is missbehaving today)

      Any person that thinks linus torvolds opinion is worthless in this matter ought to re-evaluate their own level of respect in the tech community before blasting off there comments here.