Petition to fire DOJ lawyer hits threshold in wake of activist suicide

A White House petition to fire U.S. district attorney Carmen Ortiz surpassed the 25,000 signatures it needed for an official response on Monday, after an Internet activist Ortiz was prosecuting killed himself over the weekend.

As of Tuesday afternoon, nearly 29,000 had signed a petition, created on Saturday, calling Ortiz "a danger to the life and liberty of anyone who might cross her path."

The Justice Department dropped its charges against Internet activist Aaron Swartz on Monday, citing his death.

Swartz, who was facing computer hacking charges, hanged himself in his New York apartment on Friday. He was 26.

Federal prosecutors indicted Swartz in 2011, accusing him of breaking into a computer network at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and downloading 4.8 million documents from JSTOR, a subscription service of academic articles.

He faced up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. His trial was scheduled to begin in April.

Swartz was an accomplished programmer and activist who argued that more online information should be free to the public.

In a statement on Saturday, Swartz's family blamed overzealous prosecutors for driving him to take his own life.

"Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach," the family said.

Ortiz's husband Tom Dolan, an executive at IBM, has taken to Twitter to defend his wife.

Dolan said Swartz had been offered a six-month sentence but turned down the offer.

"Truly incredible that in their own son's [obituary] they blame others for his death and make no mention of the 6-month offer," Dolan tweeted.

Swartz was a programming savant from a young age.

When he was just 14, he helped create RSS, a file format that lets people subscribe to online content. He later founded a company that merged with the wildly popular social media site Reddit.

Swartz's prosecution has spurred intense backlash among Internet and transparency activists.