A White House petition with more than 37,000 signatures seeks the removal of a federal prosecutor in Massachusetts for going too far in charging Aaron Swartz, a prominent Internet activist and co-founder of social news website Reddit who committed suicide last week.
The petition says U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, took excessive action in punishing Swartz, driving him to his death.
Swartz faced 13 felony charges in the digital theft of a large cache of academic articles from online database JSTOR, with the intent of uploading them to peer-to-peer file-sharing websites.
Boston.com reports that 26-year-old Swartz was offered six months in prison as a plea bargain to avoid an April trial, but he turned the offer down.
Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Friday. He had battled depression his entire life and it became severe during the federal case, his family said.
The petition, which seeks to remove Ortiz from her post, says Swartz committed "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," states the petition launched four days ago by an Oregon man.
According to the We the People policy, the administration now is required to respond to petitions that exceed 100,000 signatures in less than 30 days, but a previous 25,000-signature threshold may apply to the Ortiz petition.
In any case, the administration has not responded yet.
The petition says it's not too late to do something in Swartz's memory, and that those "who used the powers granted to them by their office to hound [Swartz] into a position where he was facing a ruinous trial, life in prison, and the ignominy and shame of being a convicted felon" could still be held accountable.
Swartz was the executive director of the website Demand Progress, a petition site that successfully helped to repeal the Stop Online Privacy Act, a bill that would have allowed the government more liberty prosecuting those who infringed on Internet copyright and intellectual property.
Swartz also helped develop the RSS standard, a subscription service for blogs.
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