Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s husband took to Twitter on Monday to defend his wife after she came under intense scrutiny for pursuing a federal case against a renowned computer programmer who killed himself last week.
Thomas Dolan, an IBM executive, struck out on Twitter to defend his U.S. Attorney wife on Monday night, according to a report in the Boston Globe.
“Truly incredible that in their own son’s obit they blame others for his death and make no mention of the 6-month offer,” Dolan wrote Monday under his Twitter moniker @tomjdolan.
He added in a later tweet: ”6 months is not 35 years or a lifetime.”
Aaron Swartz, an open-internet activist and co-creator of Reddit and RSS, committed suicide on Friday. He faced up to 35 years in prison on felony computer hacking charges. The 26-year-old’s family said in a statement that his suicide was “the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”
Dolan in his tweets was referring to a government offer to Swartz that included him pleading guilty to felony charges in return for a reduced sentence of six months in prison. Ortiz’s husband has since deleted his Twitter account.
Shortly after Swartz’s death, supporters created a White House petition calling for the removal of Ortiz. That petition has now reached the requisite 25,000 signatures to prompt a response from the administration. (As of press time, more than 37,000 people had signed the online petition.)
The backlash has been severe. Many took to Twitter to respond to Dolan’s tweets, and hackers sent the Justice Department website offline for a period over the weekend.
Ortiz declined comment to the Boston Globe on her husband’s tweets. After Swartz committed suicide, a U.S. Attorney’s office spokesperson said, ”We want to respect the privacy of the family and do not feel it is appropriate to comment on the case at this time.”
Swartz was arrested in January 2011 after he allegedly attempted to download the contents of JSTOR, a database of academic journals. The database had previously only been available for free at institutes of higher education, but just last week JSTOR announced it was freeing up more than 4.5 million journal articles for public use. Swartz had also used free public library access to download nearly 20 million pages of text from Pacer, the federal courts database of court filings, causing Pacer’s servers to stop and the FBI to investigate.
JSTOR declined to press charges against Swartz, but Ortiz’s office still decided to move forward with the case.