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Prosecutor gives emotional defense in hacker case

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BOSTON (AP) - A federal prosecutor who has faced sharp criticism following the suicide of an Internet freedom activist appeared to fight back tears Thursday as she defended her office's handling of a hacking case against him.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said Aaron Swartz's family has suffered a "horrible tragedy" and that she is personally "terribly upset about what happened here." But she says she believes the case was conducted "reasonably" and "appropriately."

"I feel that it was fairly handled," she said.

Ortiz made her remarks during an unrelated news conference in Boston. She paused at one point and appeared to choke up.

Swartz, 26, was found dead in his New York apartment last week.

Ortiz has been blasted by Swartz's supporters, who believe her office was overly aggressive in charging Swartz with 13 felonies for tapping into the computer network at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to download nearly 5 million articles from an online clearinghouse for academic journals.

Swartz's lawyer, Elliot Peters, said prosecutors were insisting that any plea deal would involve Swartz pleading guilty to all 13 felony charges against him and serving four to six months in prison.

Responding to a reporter's question, Ortiz said her prosecutors did not demand that Swartz plead guilty. She said they but had discussions with his lawyers about a deal in which prosecutors would have recommended a sentence of about six months. She said Swartz's lawyer would have been able to argue for a lesser sentence.

Ortiz was also asked if she knew that the prosecutors working on the case were told by Swartz's former lawyer more than a year ago that Swartz was suicidal. Ortiz said "some issues about his mental health came up" about 18 months ago, but they were addressed during his arraignment.

Swartz's former lawyer, Andrew Good, said earlier this week that when he told prosecutors Swartz was suicidal, they offered to keep him in jail.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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