Aaron Swartz Allegedly Driven to Suicide by Prosecutors
Family claims Reddit Co-Founder Aaron Swartz was driven to suicide by prosecutors who accused him of stealing private documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011.
The 26-year old, who hanged himself Friday night, was facing a long prison sentence after allegedly hacking JSTOR, a subscription service used by the institute. His family and girlfriend believe the government and academic officials who pushed for his prosecution also played a role in his decision.
“Aaron’s death isn’t simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” Swartz’s family said, as quoted by The Belfast Telegraph. “Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The U.S. Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims.”
Swartz took his life just weeks before the start of his federal hacking trial. In 2007, the Internet activist gave clues about his depression shortly after being fired from Condé Nast, the company that bought Reddit.
“There is a moment, immediately before life becomes no longer worth living, when the world appears to slow down and all its myriad details suddenly become brightly, achingly apparent,” Swartz said in the blog post titled “A Moment Before Dying.”
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian called the police and asked them to break into Swartz’s apartment. At the time, he claimed it was just a joke and “people got freaked out and misinterpreted” the blog post.
JSTOR, the service allegedly hacked by Aaron Swartz, posted a sympathy message on its website and acknowledged he was “a truly gifted person who made important contributions to the development of the internet.” When he was only 14, Swartz helped create the RSS tool now used in the entire world.
His funeral will be held in Highland Park, Illinois.