16,000 People Are Asking President Obama To Fire Aaron Swartz's Prosecutor

Aaron SwartzAaron Swartz co-founded Demand Progress, an advocacy group.

Photo: Selfagency via Flickr

People are outraged over the death of Aaron Swartz, the 26-year-old Reddit cofounder, at his own hands on Friday, a few months before he was scheduled to go to trial for the alleged theft of scholarly articles at the MIT campus.And they’re trying to do something about it.

petition calling for the removal of Swartz’s prosecutor, U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz, has already amassed over 16,500 signatures since it was created on Saturday.

It needs another 8,500 signatures before it hits a threshold which will prompt the White House, which created the petition site, to review the matter and respond.

UPDATE: By 4:30 pacific time, the petition had well over 19,000 signatures.

Although Swartz described his battles with depression, Swartz’s family and friends said the behaviour of the U.S. Attorney contributed to his suicide.

Swartz could have gone to prison for more than 30 years. Some copyright reform advocates, including noted Harvard professor Larry Lessig, said that Swartz was a victim of prosecutorial “bullying,”

There would be some poetic justice if this Internet petition spurs an investigation that leads to concrete action like Ortiz’s dismissal. Swartz spent his life using the Internet to as a tool for social justice.

Here’s the full text of the petition:

Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz.

It is too late to do anything for Aaron Swartz, but [those] who used the powers granted to them by their office to hound him into a position where he was facing a ruinous trial, life in prison (sic) and the ignominy and shame of being a convicted felon; for an alleged crime that the supposed victims did not wish to prosecute.

A prosecutor who does not understand proportionality and who regularly uses the threat of unjust and overreaching charges to extort plea bargains from defendants regardless of their guilt is a danger to the life and liberty of anyone who might cross her path.

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