Responding to criticism that U.S. Attorney of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz was too harsh in her prosecution of Aaron Swartz, late on Wednesday night, Ortiz issued a statement in which she defended her office's decisions as "appropriate" to the case and the belief his alleged actions merited jail time. But tellingly, even Ortiz does did not defend the current state of computer crime law, which meant that Swartz technically faced 50 years in federal prison, a sentence harsher than murder, for his thirteen felony charges for downloading the academic database JSTOR. The prosecutors working on the case, Ortiz said, "recognized that his conduct — while a violation of the law — did not warrant the severe punishments authorized by Congress and called for by the Sentencing Guidelines."
But that does not mean she thought Swartz shouldn't go to jail. Her office Ortiz offered Swartz six months in a "low security setting," if he plead guilty, as part of a plea bargain. If he did not accept that, however, the prosecution would argue for a seven- to eight-year sentence. The idea of serving any jail time at all reportedly weighed on Swartz, his girlfriend and lawyers told The Wall Street Journal earlier this week. His family has alleged that "prosecutorial overreach" killed him, in their statement.