A petition urging President Barack Obama to fire U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for prosecutorial overreach in her office's case against Aaron Swartz had garnered more than 10,000 signatures in the few days since the open-democracy advocate's death. A leading academic has also called for an independent inquiry into her office's conduct.
Swartz, an Internet pioneer, took his own life on Friday at the age of 26, after fighting federal hacking charges for two years.
In the fall of 2010, Swartz downloaded millions of academic journal articles from the online database JSTOR. The scope of the download was a violation of JSTOR's terms-of-service agreement -- users are typically limited to a few downloads at a time -- although Swartz had legal access to all of the articles through his database account. JSTOR decided not to pursue any civil case against Swartz and urged the U.S. Attorney's Office for Massachusetts to abandon the criminal case against him. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose computer network Swartz used to download the documents, did not do so.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Garland and Stephen Heymann, working under Ortiz, filed 13 felony charges against Swartz, seeking decades of imprisonment.