Ortiz’s discretionary call

Six months later the Globe selected Ortiz as its Bostonian of the Year. The newspaper’s magazine said Ortiz, Boston’s first female and first Hispanic US attorney, “has sent an unambiguous message to the Massachusetts political class to behave, ramped up prosecutions of white-collar crime, and built a new civil rights enforcement team.” The article made no mention of the Swartz case.

But this past week the Swartz case, in the wake of the computer prodigy’s suicide, has come to define Ortiz’s career. Swartz’s father blamed government prosecutors for his son’s death, prompting an intense debate over who is at fault.

The Globe’s editorial page says Ortiz went “way, way too far.” Globe columnist Kevin Cullen says Ortiz should more fully explain her thinking. Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis watches Ortiz struggle with the aftermath of Swartz’s suicide, going from proudly standing over a cache of seized drugs to tearfully cutting off a press conference in the span of an hour.

Eileen McNamara, writing for WBUR, makes a compelling case that Ortiz shouldn’t be blamed for killing Swartz. She highlights Swartz’s own writings showing just how troubled he was. Writing in Time, Yale Law School professor Adam Cohen says Swartz’s suicide was caused by mental illness, but believes prosecutors seem to have wrongly used their discretion.

The misuse of prosecutorial discretion is a recurring theme with the US attorney’s office. The Globe’s Bostonian of the Year article raised the issue, saying Ortiz, like other US attorneys, tends to adhere to a rigid federal sentencing framework in recommending punishments. At the time Ortiz issued her indictment, Jerry Cohen, an attorney with Burns & Levinson who specializes in copyright, licensing, and publication law, told the Globe the allegations against Swartz were serious but usually handled through civil proceedings. He likened the filing of criminal charges against Swartz to taking “a sledgehammer to drive a thumb tack.”

“It might be taking too big a weapon,” Cohen said. “It’s intended to terrorize the person who’s indicted and others who might be thinking of the same thing.”

–BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

Lt. Gov. Tim Murray says he won’t be running for governor in 2014 or any other statewide office.

CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl says Gov. Deval Patrick is dreaming big as the clock starts ticking down on his tenure. The Globe details the broad array of taxes, fees, and fares that Patrick wants to raise. The Herald talks to three families fuming over taxes, while the paper’s editorial page contrasts Patrick’s approach with that of six Republican governors who are pushing to lower taxes. The Eagle-Tribune, the Lowell Sun, and the Telegram & Gazette all pan Gov. Deval Patrick’s tax package. Keller@Large wonders whether, while Gov. Deval Patrick is willing to lead on a tax increase, lawmakers are ready to follow. Early signals on that front are mixed.

Pioneer Institute’s Jim Stergios and Kristina Egan of Transportation for Massachusetts debate the governor’s proposal to spend $1 billion more per year on transportation in this new CommonWealth magazine “Face to Face” video.

Rep. David Linsky, a Natick Democrat, proposes that gun owners carry liability insurance.

CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan finds that former state officials have sought to protect personal assets from possible litigation related to the state drug lab scandal.

If you think the long-running battle over the so-called Right to Repair law is done, think again. With today’s filing deadline for bills, the Legislature has to reconcile the law it passed with the referendum voters approved on the measure in November.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt is petitioning the governor for the power to appoint an interim state rep until the special election to fill the seat of the late Joyce Spiliotis is held in April, the Salem News reports.

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke returns a trophy awarded to his town’s swim team after the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association refuses to back down on its post-season ban for all Gardner winter sports teams, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

Swansea selectmen voted to lower the catch limits on shellfish while opening new areas for harvest.

A Hingham selectman says the town is actually paying more after one year, not saving money, as a result of entering into a regional dispatch center with three neighboring towns.

Cape residents talk taxes.

Shirley selectmen seek the resignation of the town’s chief administrative officer.

CASINOS

The state’s Gaming Commission rejected four appeals for extensions to the deadline to file applications for a casino. Paper City Development, which wanted to build a casino in Holyoke, comments on the denial of a request for an extension.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

President Obama’s political organization is being turned into a nonprofit that will work on political issues in Washington, the Associated Press reports (via Lowell Sun).

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie calls the latest anti-Obama NRA ad “reprehensible.” New polls from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal show majority support for stricter gun measures. Former governor Paul Cellucci pens an op-ed in today’s Globe calling for a bipartisan effort to expand gun control laws nationally — just as Massachusetts did in the late 1990s.

The National Review answers the question of who needs an AR-15 assault rifle.

If confirmed, Sen. John Kerry is going to need a few more good men and women.

House Republicans go on retreat to regroup and continue to do themselves no favors. A pollster tells them to stop talking about rape.

Paul Krugman argues that the deficit is in far better shape than Congress says it’s in.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Chronicle of Philanthropy focuses on the increase in donors to the Samaritans after the group changed its marketing focus from suicide prevention to life and happiness in a new campaign called “Happier Boston.”

Tim Geithner gives an exit interview to the Wall Street Journal.

The bloody sock goes on the auction block.

Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez, dumped last summer by the Red Sox, dump their high-end homes.

EDUCATION

Advocates will file legislation today to lift the cap on charter schools, arguing that several cities are already bumping up against the higher cap put into place three years ago. In Washington, DC, officials are proposing to close one in 10 public schools due to slumping enrollment caused in part by the growth of charters, the Washington Post reports.

HEALTH CARE

Many municipalities and some private companies are barring employees who smoke, Governing reports. In Massachusetts, the magazine says the Massachusetts Hospital Association prohibits smokers in its ranks and laws also bar local police, fire, and corrections workers from smoking.

TRANSPORTATION

State officials explain that they decided to accelerate plans to replace all wall panels in the Callahan Tunnel out of an abundance of caution after a panel fell on the roadway last month.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A multi-agency team of more than 300 law enforcement officials descended early yesterday on two Boston neighborhoods and arrested 27 alleged gang members on a variety of federal charges that could send many of them to prison for life.

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett says he has assigned six workers to investigate 5,600 cases tainted by the work of Annie Dookhan at the now-closed state drug lab, the Item reports.

The head of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center in Newburyport was called to Washington to participate in gun control talks, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

MEDIA

Dear Abby: My advice columnist, whose real name was Pauline Friedman Phillips, passed away at 94.  

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Lance Armstrong comes clean with Oprah.

Fox renews deal with Karl Rove, Politico reports.