Martin Gottesfeld, an activist jailed since February on charges stemming from a politically motivated cyberattack on Boston Children’s Hospital, has been on a hunger strike in prison for 49 days to bring attention to what he says is widespread mistreatment of children.
In a letter addressed to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, Gottesfeld calls on the DOJ to release him from solitary confinement and alleges that he’s being mistreated at Metropolitan Correctional Center, the prison in New York where he is currently housed. Gottesfeld provided the letter to The Huffington Post, which then forwarded the letter to the officials’ offices seeking comment.
The Office of the Inspector General said it could not comment on the allegations, and the DOJ did not respond.
Gottesfeld says he has lost 45 pounds since he began his hunger strike on Oct. 3 and that his kidneys are in constant pain, but instead of receiving proper medical care, he believes he’s being punished by the prison for participating in his hunger strike. In his letter, he says that as “a direct result” of his strike, prison staff moved him into solitary confinement, that the prison has barred him from making calls to his family and attorneys and has threatened to put him on “suicide watch.” He also says that one of the prison doctors threateningly told him that inmates who are housed at MCC in New York “are quickly forgotten.” All of which, Gottesfeld believes, is an attempt by the prison to break his hunger strike.
He also notes that the prison has defended how its treating him as medically necessary, but Gottesfeld claims that he’s not being medically monitored. He also claims that his cell is cold and has standing water leaking on the floor, which Gottesfeld says concerns him because his immune system is compromised due to the weeks of starvation he’s undergone. He says the conditions in his cell increase the odds of infection.
“The medically appropriate thing to do would be to place me in a clean hospital bed, hook me up to a heart monitor, and not to punish me,” Gottesfeld says.
MCC New York didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a message published exclusively on HuffPost in September, Gottesfeld said he took out the Boston hospital’s internet in the spring of 2014 to protest the controversial treatment of teenager Justina Pelletier and to protest the “troubled teen industry” more broadly. (The Huffington Post recently published an investigation into the industry, which has been accused of abusing children for decades.)
Gottesfeld is among those who criticize the hospital for separating Pelletier from her parents after they sought medical treatment for her. The hospital and state of Massachusetts claimed the parents had abused her with unnecessary and harmful medical treatments. (Check here for more information on Pelletier’s controversial case, and here for a primer on Gottesfeld’s involvement as part of the hacker collective Anonymous.)
Gottesfeld’s wife, Dana Gottesfeld, told HuffPost that for the last two days her husband has been drinking fluids again as a show of good faith as he awaits the Department of Justice’s response to his letter.
Martin Gottesfeld has said he’ll continue his hunger strike unless two conditions are met: President-elect Donald Trump must promise to work toward ensuring American children are spared the kind of mistreatment he says has victimized Pelletier. And the office of Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, which is prosecuting Gottesfeld, must end its “political,” over-aggressive style of prosecution. (HuffPost catalogued Ortiz’s controversial record of targeting progressives in a July report that caused a political dust-up in Massachusetts.)
“The result of my hunger strike will serve as an appropriate backdrop to the upcoming Pelletier lawsuit, and accurately highlights the human rights records of Carmen Ortiz and Boston Children’s Hospital,” Gottesfeld said in a written statement provided to HuffPost. “The feats made public in those proceedings, which the courts would deny me the right to raise at my ‘trial,’ should be known to the world.”
Here is Gottesfeld’s letter, published in full:
Dear Attorney-General Lynch and Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz,
First, please allow me to apologize for the public forum of this message, all my other attempts to contact you more privately have gone unanswered. I have not eaten solid food since October 3rd, and I have not drank any fluids since Friday, November 13th. I have lost over 45 pounds at measure, and my kidneys hurt constantly.
My name is Martin Gottesfeld, and I am a human rights activist and defender of institutionalized children, who suffer from atrocious abuses in our nation, often with no one to protect them. These abuses are well documented by The Government Accountability Office (1,2,3), PBS, as well as the American Bar Association and Bazelon Center. I sent your office a detailed report of the violations of the U.S.-ratified Convention Against Torture that fifteen-year-old Justina Pelletier suffered while institutionalized at Boston Children’s Hospital and a residential treatment center appropriately called Wayside. I am accused of causing financial damage to these places during the struggle to protect Justina, who is still in a wheelchair more than two years later. Unlike what was done to Justina, which maimed and nearly killed her, I am not accused of harming any person.
Rolling Stone is working on a feature about my flight to protect these kids, the Huffington Post has published multiple articles, and television networks are also working on multiple pieces. Justina thanked me in her Rolling Stone Interview and said that I do not belong in jail. Reverend Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, to Rolling Stone he is praying for me, and the Pelletier family spoke in detail regarding the horrible abuses that paralyzed Justina and nearly took her life at Boston Children’s. Additionally, the Pelletier’s have sued the hospital so the totality of Justina’s suffering will be heard in open court. I take great comfort in knowing that the whole truth will inevitably be brought to light, further vindicating me.
As a direct result of my hunger strike, I am currently being punished at the DOJ facility MCC New York, despite never having been adjudicated of any crime by any court, nor even a prison disciplinary process. I am being held in solitary confinement, have not been able to call my family, nor my attorneys. I have been threatened with being placed on suicide watch, forcefully hydrated by IV, and force-fed. I am told if I don’t drink voluntarily, I can leave segregation. This is a clear and blatant attempt to break the hunger strike; there is no medical reason for restricting my calls to my wife, nor placing my in solitary.
One of the doctors here told me that inmates who come to MCC New York are quickly forgotten, but I know with all the journalists currently working on coverage, this thinly-veiled threat is simply not accurate in my case.
Further, while the reasons for these conditions are claimed to be medical, I am not being medically monitored. If I were to pass out at the wrong time, it could be several hours before I am discovered. My cell is cold, with standing water leaking on the floor, which given the compromising effects of starvation on my immune system, infection greatly increases the odds of a catastrophic and deadly infection. The medically appropriate thing to do would be to place me in a clean hospital bed, hook me up to a heart monitor, and not to punish me.
I could be mere hours or days away from death, and I would like to call my wife, who I have not embraced in 9 months.
My case is being pursued by Carmen Ortiz, and the last activist she targeted with anti-hacking law was the late Aaron Swartz. Her administration has become infamous on both sides of the political aisle. I believe she is attempting to rewrite history by using my case to justify her abhorrent treatment of Swartz and Boston Children’s near homicide of Justina, but I know that thanks to the Rolling Stone, the Huffington Post, and others the whole truth will come out.
The results of my hunger strike will reflect on Carmen Ortiz and her cybercrime chief, Adam Bookbinder, but I see no reason for their sordid past to reflect on you, unless you choose to allow it too. If this does reach the point of forceful hydration/ feeding, those will have to go on for months, until the Rolling Stone piece is published, TV has broadcasted, and the Huffington Post has run more articles.
It is my hope that instead though, you pursue true justice by allowing me to finally return home to my loving wife and family.
Martin Gottesfeld, ID # 12982-104
SHU – MCC New York