Aaron Swartz Didn't Have to Die. Presumptive Arrogance, Power and Intransigence Garroted Him
By now you know who Aaron Swartz was: RSS co-author, Internet wunderkind, creator of Infogami which merged with social news site Reddit, Demand Progress founder (open-democracy advocate) SOPA and PIPA activist (fought against internet censorship) President Obama Kill List critic and US and Israeli critic of joint cyber attacks on Iran. (Aaron's being Jewish didn't deter him.)
By now, you also know his girlfriend found him hanging by his belt just inside a window of his apartment in Crown Heights. The medical examiner ruled it a suicide and the family made a telling statement framing the suicide not only as a tragedy but a "product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach." Their statement implies that the 26-year-old had been incredibly stressed out by the prosecution's case against him and was driven to suicide because of it.
According to reports, Swartz in the federal case against him attempted to reduce the charges below felony status repeatedly. Prosecutors (Citizens' petitions one with over 40,000 signatures are on the WhiteHouse.gov site calling for the firing of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and lead attorney on the case assistant, U. S. Attorney Stephen Heymann ) were unyielding. Swartz was a big fish and they would make their case backed not by JSTOR who archived the documents, but by M.I.T. in whose closet Aaron Swartz entered and left a computer uploading documents.
In what appears to be bullying him into submission, Heymann kept up the pressure, adding additional charges so that by September 2012, Swartz faced 13 felony counts and up to half a century in prison. The prosecutors' actions prompted family to include in their statement,
"The decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office and at M.I.T. contributed to his death. The U.S. Attorney's Office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over thirty years in prison to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, M.I.T. refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community's most cherished principles."
At Aaron's funeral on Tuesday, January 17, 2013, Aaron's father stated bluntly and clearly, Aaron "was killed by the government."
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