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House panel to hear briefing on Swartz prosecution

WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice has agreed to brief a congressional committee on the circumstances surrounding US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s prosecution of Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide last month after battling federal hacking charges for two years, officials said Tuesday.

The agreement came a week after the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to the agency calling for more information on the high-profile case. A date for the briefing has not been announced but it could come as soon as next week.

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Critics have said Ortiz’s aggression - pursuing 13 felony charges that could have led to 35 years in prison - contributed to Swartz’s decision to take his own life. Ortiz said in a statement last month that while she felt “heartfelt sympathy” for the 26-year-old’s friends and family, “the career prosecutors handling this matter took on the difficult task of enforcing a law they had taken an oath to uphold, and did so reasonably.”

The House committee’s letter asks whether Ortiz pushed too hard in her prosecution. Swartz was indicted in 2011 on charges that he illegally used the Massachusetts Institute of technology network to download nearly 5 million articles and documents from JSTOR, among the world’s largest archives of scholarly journals.

David.Uberti@globe.com@DavidUberti
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