Aaron Swartz’s suicide — update: family blames federal prosecutors

Reddit cofounder and well-known Internet activist Aaron Swartz, hanged himself in his New York apartment on  Friday, January 11.

He says of himself on his blog:

“Working with Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee at MIT, he helped develop and popularize standards for sharing data on the Web.

He also coauthored the RSS 1.0 specification, now widely used for publishing news stories.

He was to go on trial later this year on federal charges all the theft of millions of articles from JSTOR, the online archive and journal distribution service, in an attempt to make the articles freely available to the public.

If the charges had been upheld, he would’ve faced  years in jail and and $1 million in fines.

“JSTOR did not press charges against Swartz, once it  had reclaimed the articles.


But Media reports say US attorney Carmen Ortiz wouldn’t drop the case.

Now, in a statement released today (Saturday), “Swartz’s family in Chicago expressed not only grief over his death but also bitterness toward federal prosecutors pursuing the case in Massachusetts against him,” says the National Post.

“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death,” they said.

Elliot Peters, Swartz’s California-based defense attorney and a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the case “was horribly overblown” because Swartz had “the right” to download from JSTOR, a subscription service used by MIT that offers digitized copies of articles from more than 1,000 academic journals.

Peters said even the company took the stand that the computer crimes section of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston had overreached in seeking prison time for Swartz and insisting – two days before his suicide – that he plead guilty to all 13 felony counts. Peters said JSTOR’s attorney, Mary Jo White – the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan – had called Stephen Heymann, the lead Boston prosecutor in the case.

Jon Newton — myblogdammit

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