US Attorney Carmen Ortiz says she’s ‘terribly upset’ about computer activist’s suicide

US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said today that she was “terribly upset” by the suicide of Aaron Swartz, the open-information advocate who killed himself last week while facing federal charges of hacking into MIT’s computer network.

This Dec. 8, 2012 photo provided by ThoughtWorks shows Aaron Swartz, in New York. Swartz, a co-founder of Reddit, hanged himself Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, in New York City. Since his suicide, friends and admirers have eulogized the 26-year-old free-information activist as a martyred hero, hounded to his death by the government he antagonized. (AP Photo/ThoughtWorks, Pernille Ironside)
Aaron Swartz (ThoughtWorks/AP)

“My heart goes out to that family,” she said. “They are suffering a terrible loss. ... I have to say that I am terribly upset about what happened here.”

At the same time, though, Ortiz, who spoke to reporters after an unrelated news conference at her office on Boston’s waterfront, insisted, “I’m confident ... that this case was fairly, reasonably, and appropriately handled.”

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She said, “I pride myself in striving to be fair and reasonable.”

Her comments echoed a statement she issued Wednesday night, but had a slightly more personal edge. Critics have said Ortiz’s office was overzealous in prosecuting Swartz.

Asked if she would do anything in light of Swartz’s suicide, she said, “I think when anything this tragic occurs you always have to pause and think and review.”

Asked if her office had been alerted that Swartz, 26, was suicidal, Ortiz said, “My understanding is that some issues about a year and a half ago came up regarding his mental illness and they were addressed at the arraignment.” She then declined to take any further questions.

Globe columnist Kevin Cullen reported earlier this week that one of Swartz’s defense lawyers said he had told a federal prosecutor that Swartz was a “suicide risk.”

Swartz faced federal charges that alleged he had used MIT’s network to download millions of academic articles from a subscription database.