|Official portrait of US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, District of Massachusetts (2009)|
|U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts|
November 6, 2009
|Appointed by||Barack Obama|
|Preceded by||Michael Sullivan|
|Born||Carmen Milagros Ortiz
January 5, 1956
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Adelphi University
George Washington University
In 2009, she was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama. Ortiz is both the first woman and the first Hispanic to serve as U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. She succeeded Michael Sullivan in that position, with Michael J. Loucks serving as the interim U.S. Attorney between Sullivan's resignation and Ortiz's confirmation. Noteworthy prosecutions by her office include those of Whitey Bulger, Tarek Mehanna, Aaron Swartz, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Early life and education
Born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, Ortiz grew up in East Harlem. Ortiz has said that, as a child, watching Perry Mason on television inspired her to become a lawyer. After graduating from The Saint Agnes School in 1974, Ortiz earned her B.B.A from Adelphi University in 1978, working in her family's gift shop during her years there. Ortiz later earned her J.D. at George Washington University's National Law Center in 1981. In the summer of 1980, Ortiz interned in the Public Integrity Section of the United States Department of Justice with Eric Holder, who later become U.S. Attorney General. She also worked on judicial reform in Guatemala with Harvard professor, former Watergate prosecutor, and former deputy attorney general Philip Heymann.
From 1981 to 1983, Ortiz was an attorney with the United States Department of Justice Criminal Division. Ortiz also was a hostess at an Arlington, Virginia, restaurant from 1981 to 1982. Ortiz served as Assistant District Attorney in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in two stints: 1983 to 1988 and 1991 to 1994. In 1988, Ortiz went into the private sector with the Braintree law firm Marinelli & Morisi, where she would work until 1989. Ortiz also coordinated the Center for Criminal Justice at Harvard Law School from 1988 to 1991. In 1990, after being appointed by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, she served on a commission that investigated allegations of sexual harassment against members of the New England Patriots. In 1997, Ortiz became an Assistant U.S. Attorney.
United States Attorney
In May 2009, Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry recommended Ortiz to President Obama for the vacant United States Attorney position in the District of Massachusetts. On September 18, Obama nominated Ortiz for the position. On November 5, the United States Senate confirmed her appointment by unanimous consent.
In 2011, Ortiz's office was responsible for the prosecution of GlaxoSmithKline general counsel Lauren Stevens. Ultimately, the court dismissed the case, ruling that "it would be a miscarriage of justice to permit this case to go to the jury."
Carmen Ortiz's office is leading the prosecution of mobster Whitey Bulger. On July 6, 2011, Bulger was arraigned in federal court. He pleaded not guilty to 48 charges, including 19 counts of murder, extortion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, perjury, narcotics distribution and weapons violations.
Ortiz's office also led the prosecution of Bulger's girlfriend Catherine Greig. In March 2012, Greig plead guilty to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, identity fraud, and conspiracy to commit identity fraud. On June 12, 2012, she was sentenced to eight years' confinement in a federal penitentiary.
On March 23, 2012, Ortiz's office secured grand jury indictments against former state Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien and two of his former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, for their involvement in running a sham hiring system in which friends and family members of legislators and politically connected job seekers were hired over more qualified applicants. Each faces one count of racketeering conspiracy and 10 counts of mail fraud for sending rejection letters to applicants they knew they were never going to consider. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison on each of the 11 counts. Ortiz said the indictments are “one step in an ongoing investigation.”
Carmen Ortiz led the prosecution of American pharmacist Tarek Mehanna, who was accused of, among other crimes, translating and posting online materials described by prosecutors as Al Qaeda propaganda. Mehanna's lawyers argued that he never tried to join an armed group and never tried to hurt anyone, and that his internet activities were protected under the U.S. First Amendment. In April 2012, Mehanna was sentenced in federal court in Boston on four terrorism-related charges and three others related to lying to agents of the FBI and other U.S. federal officials.
Ortiz came under fire after her office was involved in the January 19, 2013 arrest of a man who reportedly "looks very much like" a wanted drug suspect. The man was released by a federal magistrate the following day after prosecutors admitted "significant doubt" that the arrested man was indeed the suspect.
Ortiz was "admonished by a federal appeals court in 2004 for advocating a harsher jail term for a defendant than she had promised him in a plea-bargain agreement." In a plea deal, Ortiz had agreed to leniency, but she "substantively argued" for a harsher sentence. The Appeals Court ruled that Ortiz "violated the plea agreement it entered into with Gonczy," and it vacated the sentence.
Motel Caswell confiscation case
Ortiz's office sought to confiscate the Motel Caswell in Tewksbury, Massachusetts from its owner, Russ Caswell. Prosecutors contended that, despite the fact that Caswell himself had never been charged with any crime, his property was subject to civil forfeiture as a long-term site of criminal activity. Ortiz's spokeswoman said "The government believed that this was an important case, not only for the town of Tewksbury, which has been plagued for decades by the criminal activity at Motel Caswell, but because of the important deterrent message it sends to others who may turn a blind eye to crime occurring at their place of business." The property had been the location of 15 drug crimes between 1994 and 2008, which Caswell said is small considering that he rents about 14,000 rooms per year. Caswell was represented by the Institute for Justice, a non-profit libertarian public interest law firm that frequently intervenes in asset forfeiture cases. On January 24, 2013, U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein sided with Caswell. In a written decision, Dein dismissed the government’s forfeiture action, ruling that Caswell, "who was trying to eke out an income from a business located in a drug-infested area that posed great risks to the safety of him and his family, took all reasonable steps to prevent crime. The Government’s resolution of the crime problem should not be to simply take his Property." In the ruling, the court criticized the prosecution for "stretching the evidence" and engaging in "gross exaggeration."
Prosecution of Aaron Swartz
The prosecution brought by Ortiz involved what was characterized by numerous critics such as former White House Counsel John Dean as "overcharging" and "overzealous" prosecution for the alleged computer crimes.
In all, Prosecutors charged Swartz with 13 felony counts, despite the fact that both MIT and JSTOR had chosen not to pursue civil litigation; he faced 30 years' imprisonment. Swartz committed suicide on January 11, 2013, before the case came to trial. More than 60,000 people petitioned the White House to remove Ortiz from office for "overreach." On January 15, 2013, following his suicide, all charges against Swartz were dropped. The next day, Ortiz issued a statement saying that her office had never intended to seek maximum penalties against Aaron Swartz.
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly published an op-ed piece by Massachusetts criminal defense attorney Harvey Silverglate about the case. He said attorneys familiar with the case had told him the Middlesex County District Attorney's office had planned for Swartz's case to be "continued without a finding, with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner." "Under such a disposition," Silverglate later told CNET's Declan McCullagh, "the charge is held in abeyance ("continued") without any verdict ("without a finding"). The defendant is on probation for a period of a few months up to maybe a couple of years at the most; if the defendant does not get into further legal trouble, the charge is dismissed, and the defendant has no criminal record. This is what the lawyers expected to happen when Swartz was arrested. But then the feds took over...." "Tragedy intervened," Silverglate wrote, "when Ortiz's office took over the case to send 'a message.'"
Boston's WBUR reported that Ortiz was expected to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's probe into the handling of the Aaron Swartz case. The Department of Justice gave a private briefing about the case to the House Committee, and subsequently, in March 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder defended Ortiz's aggressive prosecution before the Senate Judiciary Committee, terming it, "a good use of prosecutorial discretion."
Boston Marathon bombings
Ortiz's office is leading the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings. On June 27, 2013, Ortiz unveiled a grand jury's 30-count indictment against suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. On July 10, 2013, Tsarnaev pled not guilty to all charges.
On August 8, 2013, two of Tsarnaev's friends were indicted on federal obstruction of justice charges.
In 2011, the Boston Globe named her "Bostonian of the Year" for her prosecution of "corruption and white-collar crime". Boston magazine labeled her the third most powerful person in Boston in 2012 for her successful corruption prosecutions of former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Salvatore DiMasi, former state Senator Dianne Wilkerson, and former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner.
- Bagley, Steve (October 2, 2009). "Meet Carmen Ortiz". Main Justice. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
- "President Obama Nominates Michael Moore, Carmen Ortiz and Edward Tarver to be US Attorneys". The White House. September 18, 2009. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Vennochi, Joan (June 23, 2011). "Power hitter". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Terrero, Nina (March 1, 2012). "Celebrating Women: Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz". NBC Latino. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
- Lambert, Lane (February 5, 2010). "Q&A: New US Attorney Carmen Ortiz on her life and career". The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
- Helman, Scott (December 30, 2011). "Bostonian of the Year: Carmen Ortiz". Boston Globe. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
- Day, Michael (January 15, 2013). "Aaron Swartz’s Unbending Prosecutors Insisted on Prison Time". Daily Beast. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
- Saltzman, Jonathan (November 6, 2009). "Carmen Ortiz confirmed as US attorney for Massachusetts". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- "Meet the U.S. Attorney". US Attorney's Office - District of Massachusetts. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Aaron Swartz’s Unbending Prosecutors Insisted on Prison Time, The Daily Beast, Jan 15, 2013, retrieved January 17, 2013
- "Maryland U.S. Attorney Wouldn't Sign Indictment of GSK Counsel". Main Justice. 2011-06-20. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
- Janelle Lawrence; Chris Dolmetsch (July 6, 2011). "James "Whitey" Bulger Pleads Not Guilty to 48 Charges in Boston Court". Bloomberg. Retrieved September 30, 2011. "James "Whitey" Bulger, the Boston mobster arrested in California last month after 16 years on the run, pleaded not guilty to 48 charges including racketeering, extortion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, perjury and weapons violations."
- "Girlfriend gets 8 years for hiding 'Whitey' Bulger". CNN. June 12, 2012.
- "John O'Brien of Quincy among three indicted in Probation Department scandal". The Patriot Ledger. March 25, 2012. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- Andrea Estes; Scott Allen; Milton J. Valencia (March 23, 2012). "3 indicted in ongoing Probation Department probe". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- Crimaldi, Laura (April 12, 2012). The Daily Star (Lebanon) http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/International/2012/Apr-12/170089-us-man-sentenced-in-plot-to-help-al-qaida.ashx#axzz1sHfpJRr4
|url=missing title (help). Retrieved April 17, 2012.
- Ariosto, David (April 12, 2012). "Man gets 17½-year prison term in Massachusetts terror case". CNN. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
- Fumbling feds say wrong man may have been nabbed
- Bad Week For Carmen Ortiz: Admits To Botched Gang Arrest As Congress Kicks Off Swartz Investigation
- Carter, Zach (2013-03-25). "Aaron Swartz Prosecutor Carmen Ortiz Admonished In 2004 For Aggressive Tactic". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
- "USCA1 Opinion". Ca1.uscourts.gov. 2004-02-02. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
- Boeri, David (November 14, 2012). "Tewksbury Motel Owner Fights Move By Government To Seize Property". WBUR. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
- Lavoie, Denise. "Tewksbury Motel Owner Fights To Prevent Government From Seizing Motel". CBS Boston. CBS Local Media. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
- Sullum, Jacob (November 20, 2012). "Federal drug law beats up the innocent". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
- Lavoie, Denise (December 29, 2011). "Mass. budget motel fights forfeiture by feds". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
- Finucane, Martin (January 24, 2013). "Judge declines to seize Tewksbury motel". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- Lips, Evan (January 24, 2013). "Judge backs Caswell Motel in federal forfeiture case". The Lowell Sun. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- "Triumphant motel owner slams Carmen Ortiz". Boston Herald. 2013-01-25. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
- Boeri, David (2013-02-20). "Ortiz Under Fire: Critics Say Swartz Tragedy Is Evidence Of Troublesome Pattern". WBUR. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
- Smith, Erin (January 27, 2013). "Ortiz to motel owner: We’re not done yet". Boston Herald. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
- Chesto, Jon (March 16, 2013). "Carmen Ortiz decides not to appeal loss in Motel Caswell case". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved August 7, 2013.
- Kirschbaum, Connor (August 3, 2011). "Swartz indicted for JSTOR theft". The Tech. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
- "Police Log". The Tech. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. February 18, 2011. Retrieved January 17, 2013.
- Bilton, Nick (July 19, 2011). "Internet Activist Charged in Data Theft". Boston: Bits Blog, The New York Times Company. Retrieved January 17, 2011.
- US Attorney's Office District of Massachusetts (July 19, 2011). "Alleged Hacker Charged With Stealing Over Four Million Documents from MIT Network". Press release. Retrieved January 17, 2013. "United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said, 'Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away.'"
- "Dealing With Aaron Swartz in the Nixonian Tradition: Overzealous Overcharging Leads to a Tragic Result", Justia, John Dean, 25 January 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- Carter, Zach; Ryan Grim; Ryan J. Reilly (January 14, 2013). "Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney, Under Fire Over Suicide Of Internet Pioneer Aaron Swartz". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
- Kennedy, Dan (January 13, 2012). "Aaron Swartz, Carmen Ortiz and the American System of Justice". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Carter, Zach; Grim, Ryan; Reilly, Ryan J. (January 14, 2013). "Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney, Under Fire Over Suicide Of Internet Pioneer Aaron Swartz". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
- White House Must Respond to Petition to Remove U.S. Attorney in Aaron Swartz Case
- Aaron Swartz' Death Fuels MIT Probe, White House Petition to Oust Prosecutor - ABC News
- Tsukayama, Hayley (January 15, 2013). "Technology". The Washington Post.
- Petition Against Aaron Swartz Prosecutor - Business Insider
- Palazzolo, Joe (January 17, 2013). "US Attorney Statement on the Prosecution of Aaron Swartz". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
- Silverglate, Harvey (January 23, 2013). "The Swartz suicide and the sick culture of the DOJ". Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Archived from the original on January 24, 2013. "Lawyers familiar with the case have told [Attorney Silverglate] that it was anticipated that the state charge would be continued without a finding …."
- "Swartz didn't face prison until feds took over case, report says". CNET News. January 25, 2013.
- Holder defends Swartz prosecution, Boston Globe, David Umberti, 7 March 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
- Ross Kerber; Hilary Russ (April 21, 2013). "Boston Marathon case prosecutor known for aggressive record". Reuters. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
- Ring, Dan (June 27, 2013). "Boston Marathon bombing suspect faces 30-count indictment". The Republican. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
- "Accused Boston Marathon bomber pleads not guilty to all charges at arraignment". Fox News. July 11, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
- Sacchetti, Maria (August 8, 2013). "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s college friends indicted". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
- Helman, Scott (December 30, 2011). "Bostonian of the Year: Carmen Ortiz - The Boston Globe". Boston Globe. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- "The 50 Most Powerful People in Boston". Boston magazine. March 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
- Valencia, Milton J. (July 25, 2011). "For US attorney, Bulger trial is latest high-profile case". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
- Zaremba, John (January 4, 2013). "Carmen Ortiz rules out gov, Senate run". Boston Herald. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
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