Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
25,000 People Sign Petition to Remove Aaron Swartz's Prosecutors (mashable.com)
168 points by jeffreyfox on Jan 16, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

Why not ask for an investigation into her behaviour and its connection to the suicide instead?

I have little sympathy for prosecutorial overreach , but it seems somewhat ironic and counterproductive that she should face such harsh consequences without there being at least an attempt to establish the facts of the matter independent of the lynch mob that is now on her heels.

If we allege that she used her position to bully someone, we should at least not fall into the same trap ourselves.

I think everyone who signs the petition knows that the Obama administration won't fire her like this.

This is mostly to send a message to her and other prosecutors, and to get the Obama administration to examine the problem and give a response.

That's why I signed as well. The point is that firing should be on the table as the first option. The public needs a DAMN good reason not to fire this prosecutor.

I think we're all well aware that she's probably not the worst prosecutor in the govt. I'm sure others have caused as much harm to those without the fame and network Aaron had. However, these are the people we entrust to uphold our laws, and we need to hold them accountable to justice, not their careers.

Hopefully this is just the start.

"Why not ask for an investigation"

Lynch mobs have already done all the investigating that needs investigating.

Those grieving Swartz's death have my sympathy. Those fanning their natural anger to vengeance do not.

Cut out the hysterics. She's a political appointee. She serves at the pleasure of the president. And the public is asking for her removal.

Remember when Bush sacked a bunch of US Attorneys for insufficient ideological purity? If not, this might joggle your memory:


My spouse has spent most of the past twenty years as a clinical social worker at hospice agencies. Stints in between include geriatrics, oncology, and Alzheimer's patients. I've spent some time talking about people's reactions to death and disease. It's not the sort of stuff one leaves at the office. That office includes phone calls at 3am on a Thursday to attend a death.

Getting someone fired won't honor Swartz - at least that's my opinion. It won't change the law - and that's a fact.

I remember the Bush era firings. I didn't think they made a positive change in America. I don't think firing Swartz's prosecutor will either. I think we are better served by people who learn from their mistakes.

Other than protest, what might get the attention of the powers that be that such prosecutorial overreaching is unacceptable?

They have no impetus to change until there's enough anger to make them afraid.

Prosecutorial over-reach is a byproduct of the particular structure of our adversarial system and current views on the role of our legal system. This was not one rogue individual, it was the execution of an institutional mindset that has given us the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Pinning all that on one person allows something to be done without causing change.

Getting the appropriate person or people fired in this case is clearly about accountability, not spite / vindictiveness. These people have a lot of power, and that power was abused.

There's nothing that guarantees any of the people involved will learn from their mistakes, but what we do know is that their actions were a terrible injustice. America isn't going to magically become a better place because one person gets fired, but I don't see anybody arguing otherwise. I see people arguing that such a dramatic abuse of power should have consequences, and that is the point.

Reasonable and thoughtful people can disagree about what constitutes abuse. My opinion, though certainly not expert, is that there is nothing unusual about the tactics used in Shwartz's case - they are typical for the agency and prosecutors in general.

This didn't come about overnight. The Feds were sending people to jail for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine based on the argument that two lovers must have shared it with each other twenty years ago - and those people are only out of prison if they're dead.

It's not dramatic. It's ordinary. Prosecutors treat the courtroom the same way some people treat the golf course - as a place to demonstrate their skill.

Looking at Carmen Ortiz's [track record](http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmen_Ortiz) of cases prosecuting involving corruption and organized crime, seems like this would be hurting one of the "good guys". No doubt she has enemies that must be gloating about the petition

Yeah, because the world is like a Batman comic, right?

When "good guys" screw up, they must take the same responsibility they ask of "bad guys". When "good guys" resort to bully or torture weaker opponents, they are as bad as anyone.

Well my point was simply here is someone with a good reputation. Perhaps it's worth understanding exactly what took place crying for revenge.

I definitely agree with that notion. I think the problem we're facing is that the general public at this time knows most of what was going on. She's had a good reputation to this point. But she finally picked the wrong person to make an example of. Prosecutorial overreach is a funny thing. In that, her career may have been built on it. If the number of previous people we're actually bad people, the same tactics would of been far more accepted. Since this was a clear abuse of her power, even if it's something prosecutors generally get away with. The idea of making an example out of her seems vengeful and almost hypocritical. But it's not without its grounds.

Here's a good article on HuffPo, exactly about the ongoing practice - and its incentives - of prosecutorial overreach:


The whole system is flawed; it rewards high-profile convictions, instead of justice. Wrong success metrics -> wrong job description -> wrong outcome.

So, I have a lot of sympathy for those grieving Swartz's death AND fanning their natural anger to vengeance. They are not at odds. That's why I signed both petitions, and really hoping to see them coming through.

Of course none of this will get her (nor Steve "Is he suicidal? Let's lock him down; the jail is safe" Heymann) fired, but hopefully it'll spark the debate within Obama's administration about the (appropriate) role of prosecutors in this country.

Yeah, call me optimistic.

As the page notes, some of those cases are also very controversial. Particularly the case of Tarek Mehanna, who was convicted of aiding a terrorist organization for translating some of their documents into English. No evidence was offered that he had assisted with their operations; the criminal offense was letting the rest of us know what they are thinking. (Do you feel safer not knowing? I don't.)

Here's the ACLU page on the Mehanna case:


This case did not result in a suicide; it did, however, feature a sentence of over 17 years.

> it seems somewhat ironic and counterproductive that she should face such harsh consequences

Losing her job is a harsh consequence??

When you're a US attorney, yes. It's not like there's some other federal government you can go work for. Her job market is not as liquid as ours.

I don't think it works that way, honestly. The majority of people at that level are so well off that they don't get hit that hard. They don't really get hit at all. They have a million opportunities after being let go. Even looking into someone like Nixon, where do you go from there. He received 2 millions to write his memoirs, was paid millions for interviews etc. I don't doubt it would drastically alter her career, at least from the path she was on. But she has a certain right to uphold a set of ethics, when prosecutors overstep their power, they are no more infallible than you or I. In that role, it's always on the table as a consequence. People keep referencing how she's one of the "good guys" without any real knowledge of her previous work. Her entire career may of been built on top of prosecutorial overreach. When you put away bad people, people don't care how you do it. She finally picked the wrong person to make an example of. But even if she's let go, believe me, she'll do just fine.

Seriously, you are equating job loss as a harsh consequence when she threatens 35 years of jail time to people?

Not so much, chances are she is taking a pay cut by working for the federal government.

Of course, but there are other reasons people work where they do besides money!

It's not simply losing a job. It's being targeted by the hateful vengeance of an Internet crowd that is so convinced of the truth of its accusations and that it knows all the relevant facts, that it doesn't even give her a chance to defend herself before casting the judgement over here.

I can only imagine that being in such a position causes a huge amount of stress. It seems very hypocritical to me to one the one hand blame her for driving Aaron Swartz into suicide, and then putting her under similar pressure based on possibly premature conclusions.

> It's being targeted by the hateful vengeance of an Internet crowd that is so convinced of the truth of its accusations and that it knows all the relevant facts, that it doesn't even give her a chance to defend herself before casting the judgement over here.

Versus being targeted by the full weight of the US attorney's office that is so convinced of the truth of its accusations and that it knows all the relevant facts that it piles on trumped up charges to force someone to not defend himself in court?

When the internet crowd has the ability to have her imprisoned against her will, you can compare the situations.

Similar pressure? In what world are they even comparable?

We are talking about firing someone, not even a weekend in prison. Give me a break.

We are talking about tens of thousands of people blaming her to be a major factor in someone's death, and wishing to force consequences on her without there being an opportunity for her to make her case.

I have never met either Aaron Swartz or her, but I do know that both, the prospect of a ruinous trial as well as the prospect of being blamed for someones death and being publically shamed out of my position by an angry mob would put me under a huge amount of psychological pressure.

And the worst possible "consequence" is that she has to find another job. Again, no comparison to what she was putting Swartz through.

Being forcibly removed (as in not asked to resign as is usual in the government "circles") would probably have a disastrous effect on the rest of her career, or lack thereof.

Yeah, again, no comparison.

It seems there is no point in arguing, since it gets continually ignored but once more: Being made responsible for the death of a person is a bit harsher than "getting fired".

I think the point is to demand an internal investigation, and to ensure that destroying peoples lives in order to gain a metric for advancement will not be tolerated.

I don't believe it was the intent of the petition but it may be the end result.

I saw a story on Techmeme yesterday where the husband of the attorney supposedly said a plea was offered of six months. I'm not sure if the story was true but, if it was, it would put the story in a different light.

The intent of the petition was to put the idea that her behavior was questionable into the Presidents head.

Most likely she's working with her crisis PR team to figure out how to get in front of the issue. Which would involve a complete housecleaning of the office in MA.

See http://bluemassgroup.com/2013/01/its-bigger-than-carmen-orti...

As that article points out she is a political appointee and as such, is a legitimate focus for political outrage.

You could be right. I don't know which was my point. There are many who want turn turn Aaron's death into a movement.

I just want to get the story straight to know where I stand.

i see the irony, but couldn't you argue that it is a fair lesson in proportionality?

And thanks to the firebombing the petition's author has visited upon the English language, a government reaction to the petition will probably involve an immediate investigation of Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend.

Punk Rock Politics.

Punk Rock Politics?

Loud, angry, effective.

Looks like Carmen Ortiz's husband is a douche, chiming in about the suicide on twitter to defend his wife:


Petition to stop the witchhunt against Ortiz: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/recognize-outstand...

Total signatures on this petition: 1

Signatures required: 99,999

And now they raised the threshold to 100,000


Yes, but not for existing petitions:

"This new threshold applies only to petitions created from this point forward and is not retroactively applied to ones that already exist.

That's after half of US states successfully collected 25k+ votes on petitions to allow them to separate from US. Whitehouse copy/pasted same reply to all them, but figured that 25,000 is too easy for today's social media aware buggers and raised a quote.

A threshold clearly within the reach of the internet, when it has a desire to act.

there's a fine line between fighting bullying and bullying the bullies.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact