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Wife Of Activist Jailed For Digital Sit-In Seeks Help From Trump

The wife of a jailed activist, who faces felony charges for a digital sit-in against the Boston Children’s Hospital website, demands President-elect Donald Trump use his influence to have the charges dropped.

Marty Gottesfeld learned about the case of Justina Pelletier, who was institutionalized in a psychiatric ward in 2013 against her parents’ wishes. Gottesfeld allegedly organized with members of Anonymous and participated in a distributed denial of service (DDOS) operation that disrupted the donation portal for the hospital website.

Gottesfeld was arrested in Miami in February last year and faces a conspiracy charge and charges of “intent to damage a protected computer,” which are offenses under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison and could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution.

Carmen Ortiz, who zealously prosecuted Aaron Swartz until he committed suicide in 2013, is the federal prosecutor leading the effort to prosecute Gottesfeld.

“I’d like [Trump] to use his influence to get the charges dropped against Marty because of the nature of the whistleblowing, because Marty didn’t hurt anybody whereas the doctors at the hospital did hurt people and they’re not facing any charges,” Dana Gottesfeld, Marty’s wife, told Shadowproof in an interview.

She also would like Trump to support Justina’s Law, which she said is legislation that “would protect children that become wards of the state from medical testing that doesn’t benefit them.”

Pelletier suffers from a degenerative mitochondrial disease. She was once a figure skater but is now wheelchair bound.

She was 15 years-old when the Boston Children’s Hospital affiliated with Harvard University institutionalized her. While a custody dispute over her care persisted, hospital staff allegedly abused her and accused her of lying about about the severity of her disease. Pelletier asked staff to help her walk, dress herself, and go to the bathroom. The staff refused to provide assistance while she was in the ward.

Her parents sued Boston Children’s Hospital in February of last year. They also had to file for bankruptcy and almost lost their home to foreclosure, as a result of the financial toll Pelletier’s situation took on them.

Dana Gottesfeld said what her husband allegedly did was participate in a sit-in online. It is like “if you show up to McDonald’s with 300 people, and then no paying customers can get in.” He engaged in the “modern-day equivalent of protest for civil rights.”

The couple tried to sail from Miami in early 2016 and was found near Cuba by a Disney cruise ship. In need of aid, the ship helped them, but the FBI learned of Marty Gottesfeld’s whereabouts and later arrested him.

An apparent effort to leave the country suggests they were well aware they would have trouble receiving a fair shot at due process in a court of law, if Marty Gottesfeld was arrested.

“We live in Boston. We were in Boston at the time of Aaron Swartz’s suicide, and we see what justice in Boston means for CFAA cases,” Dana Gottesfeld declared. “That’s not justice. That’s prosecutorial overreach, and since Swartz’s death, it’s been proven over and over again.”

Ortiz was recently rebuked by a federal court of appeals for inappropriately prosecuting Probation Department officials for corrupt hiring practices when no federal crimes were committed. The development was viewed as a “stain” on Ortiz’s legacy as a prosecutor.

Dana Gottesfeld added Ortiz never did anything for Justina Pelletier, even though the FBI admitted during Marty’s pretrial confinement hearing that they knew about allegations of abuse going on at the psychiatric ward.

On October 3, 2016, Marty Gottesfeld launched a hunger strike. He was at the Wyatt federal detention center in Rhode Island but was moved to Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, where he currently is in indefinite solitary confinement.

He is refusing fluids and will not let medical personnel take medical tests because he says staff will not treat him with “dignity.” He objects to being cuffed everywhere outside of his cell and how staff restrict his ability to call his wife.

There currently is no scheduled date for a trial, as his case is still in the discovery phase. It could be more than a year before he gets a chance to defend himself in a court of law.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."