Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann is the boss of Carmen Ortiz, and the man primarily responsible for the over-the-top, vindictive prosecution of Aaron Swartz. A WhiteHouse.gov petition to get him fired has until Monday to collect 25,000 signatures. Here's some notes from Taren, Aaron's partner:
Heymann saw Aaron as a scalp he could take. He thought he could lock Aaron up, get high-profile press coverage, and win high-fives from his fellow prosecutors in the lunchroom. Aaron was a way of reviving Heymann’s fading career. Heymann had no interest in an honest assessment of whether Aaron deserved any of the hell he was being put through.
I believe that Heymann is guilty of prosecutorial misconduct on several levels, but I can’t prove it until we have a proper investigation. Among other things, many of the court documents that Aaron’s lawyers have access to that would help make that case are currently under protective order. Not, to be clear, to protect Aaron — Aaron’s family and I want the documents to be public. It’s the prosecutors whose interest is served by keeping the documents secret.
I also suspect there may be other documents we don’t have that, if subpeonaed, could help us show that Heymann was bending or even breaking the rules in his vicious quest to make an example out of Aaron.
For all these reasons, we need an investigation in order to understand better how personally involved Carmen Ortiz was in Heymann’s actions. Several members of Congress are pushing for answers from the DOJ.
But there is another critical front: this Whitehouse.gov petition. In the aftermath of Aaron’s death, supporters started two petitions on Whitehouse.gov, the official website of the White House. One was for Carmen Ortiz, Heymann’s boss, to be fired. That petition has already surpassed the required 25,000* signature threshold, which means that the White House must respond to it publicly. The other is for Steve Heymann to be fired. It is hovering at around 11,000 signatures as of this writing, and the deadline is Monday.
We need this petition to get to 25,000* signatures by Monday, February 11. Please sign it right now, and share it with everyone you know. Even if Heymann is not fired in direct response to this petition, the White House’s responsibility to respond to it will open up crucial fronts in the investigation as to what went so terribly, terribly wrong with our justice system in Aaron’s case...
Heymann and Ortiz wanted to make an example out of Aaron. Instead, we as a society must make an example out of Heymann and Ortiz. Prosecutors must understand that they have moral responsibilities. They cannot simply hide behind the phrase “prosecutorial discretion” to justify any decision. Their actions have consequences, and they must be held accountable to them.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.