Aaron Swartz's family blame US attorneys and MIT for his suicide

The Internet community is still reeling from the news this weekend that Aaron Swartz, the co-author of the RSS 1.0 specification and one of the co-founders of Reddit, committed suicide at the age of 26. On Saturday, the family of Aaron Swartz release their official statement, and they place the blame squarely on the people who were going after him for his action of taking over 4 million academic documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the JSTOR archive in 2011. His trial was scheduled to begin in April.

In their statement, the family of Swartz says:

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. The US 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. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.

Swartz's funeral will be held on Tuesday in Highland Park, Illinois. Meanwhile, the family has set up a website where people can post messages about their own memories of Swartz.

The reaction from the Internet community to Swartz' death is still being felt. CNet.com reports that researchers have released many of their own scientific papers in PDF format via Twitter, using the hashtag #pdftribute. JSTOR has also issued its own statement, saying that it joins "... those who are mourning this tragic loss." It added that Swartz had already returned the documents he took from JSTOR and had settled all claims against him. Earlier this week, JSTOR announced that the general public would be able to access many of its journals for free, but on a limited scale.

Source: Rememberaaronsw.com | Image via Harvard Law Blog

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32 Comments

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StepASide said,
So, he was a thief & also committed a suicide.. Why some people are making him a martyr?!

yes he was a thief, lets forget what he stole, and also returned [sure most didnt knew that] but treating him equal to or maybe more than what you actually treat a killer is very different.
pushing someone so much that will break him/her is also crimnal.

Massachusetts.. isn't that Mitt Romney's state?

I can only echo what others have said; the US justice system is atrocious and has needed a reform for over a decade; like mostly everything else in the US government.

To the prosecutors... I see Mitnick 2.0 here.. over zealous legal beagles looking to make a name for them selves. I would love to see Anon look up the prosecutors background and see how "Angelic" they are

To the members of the MIT community:

Yesterday we received the shocking and terrible news that on Friday in New York, Aaron Swartz, a gifted young man well known and admired by many in the MIT community, took his own life. With this tragedy, his family and his friends suffered an inexpressible loss, and we offer our most profound condolences. Even for those of us who did not know Aaron, the trail of his brief life shines with his brilliant creativity and idealism.

Although Aaron had no formal affiliation with MIT, I am writing to you now because he was beloved by many members of our community and because MIT played a role in the legal struggles that began for him in 2011.

I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.

I will not attempt to summarize here the complex events of the past two years. Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT. I have asked Professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT's involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it.

I hope we will all reach out to those members of our community we know who may have been affected by Aaron's death. As always, MIT Medical is available to provide expert counseling, but there is no substitute for personal understanding and support.

With sorrow and deep sympathy,

L. Rafael Reif

HSBC laundered billions of dollars in drug money and the only punishment those involved received was to have their bonuses deferred for five years. This guy commited a crime that had virtually no effect on society - one that the organisation involved didn't even want to pursue - and he faced obscene fines and a jail sentence that would be considered harsh for most murderers. It's just not right, nor is it in the public interest.

Few are suggesting that what he did was right or somehow justified. However, the penalty in no way matched the crime.

The old saying is perfect, "if you can't do the time, don't do the crime". Accepting this is a contract that all criminals should know. and for the people who don't know the whole story, the "4 million academic documents" was not the big charge that was resulting in the time he faced.

I agree with both groups of people in this whole situation that has gone viral. I agree that it is idiotic to blame others for his suicide. HE committed the crime and rather fight for his freedom (which he basically preached) he chose to end his life. The ONE thing you can never get back. The sentence however was very extreme but at the same time he did f*** with the government. When you commit a federal offense the government treats it like you are doing something against the ENTIRE country. It should always be treated this way however they should of looked at the situation a bit closer and given him a much lighter sentence with no fine. Breaching the government's security is definitely a no-no. Either way. A cowardly act... as the saying goes.

It's ridiculous that something like stealing digital papers is treated as a worse crime then actual real violence being committed in many cases.

What a joke our justice system is.

Enron said,
This is true, but it doesn't make it okay to do it either.

No one is saying that so why do you keep perpetuating the same crap over and over again?

Mr Nom Nom's said,

No one is saying that so why do you keep perpetuating the same crap over and over again?

Over and over again? And look around the comments here, lots of people downplaying what he did, typical piracy arguments.

SO he committed a crime and was gonna be punished for it and killed himself and its the people that the crime was committed against that is at fault?

So true. breaking the law and killing himself is now the US government fault. Stupid family members not blaming their kid for doing stupid stuff and not smart enough to stay under the radar.

Colin McGregor said,
SO he committed a crime and was gonna be punished for it and killed himself and its the people that the crime was committed against that is at fault?
Yes and no. He did commit a crime and should be charged for it, the problem is the ridicule sentence they were trying to pin on him (most likely to make an example of him and scare people)

This is like sentencing someone to death for stealing a old of bread. You people are simply crazy if you feel this punishment is in any way just.

he faced 50 years and 4 million if he got convicted.... that is just stupid, while criminals that kill, sell drugs and govern get less time and sometimes dont get nothing because of special deals...
and then people say why the world is going to hell, there is just injustice everywhere and people just allow it.

Defcon said,
This is like sentencing someone to death for stealing a old of bread. You people are simply crazy if you feel this punishment is in any way just.

He stole. Plain and simple. Law is law. You do something illegal you pay end of story. I've done lots of illegal things in my day but I also took my punishment like a man not tried to rationalize HOW illegal my acts were.

Any punishment is just, if you think it's over the top then it is a valid punishment. What use is a punishment if people think "yea thats fair" because that won't help stop people committing the crime.

The only punishments that should be "fair" are those where a crime can be caused by accident or the consequences of the action were not obvious.

Colin McGregor said,

He stole. Plain and simple. Law is law. You do something illegal you pay end of story. I've done lots of illegal things in my day but I also took my punishment like a man not tried to rationalize HOW illegal my acts were.


Yes he did, but the charges must fit the crime. The ridiculous charges stacked up against him were extremely immoral. Anyone who thinks that huge sentence is even remotely OK is insane.

Also, what he did can barely even be considered a "hack": http://unhandled.com/2013/01/1...-about-aaron-swartzs-crime/

Edited by ViperAFK, Jan 13 2013, 9:02pm :

Colin McGregor said,
He stole. Plain and simple. Law is law. You do something illegal you pay end of story. I've done lots of illegal things in my day but I also took my punishment like a man not tried to rationalize HOW illegal my acts were.

Except that JSTOR didn't even want to bring charges against him. This was all on this asshat prosecutor.

Not anyone fault except his own. Sad, yes, may his soul rest in peace. Crazy prosecutors and school administration? That's for his lawyers to handle. Now if a crazy JUDGE on the supreme court were to pass down a crazy 30 year judgement like that, barring Presidential Pardon (unlikely unless you/your family is filthy rich), now that is reason for suicide if you didn't want to wait it out.

I would put more blame on the FAMILY if anything, for not getting him mental help.

Colin McGregor said,
SO he committed a crime and was gonna be punished for it and killed himself and its the people that the crime was committed against that is at fault?

What you said is true. I just think it's just the family going through the stages of grief.

LaP said,

Actually no he did not hack.


Well, in any case, if it was illegal what he did, he should be punished. If it wasn't, he should have dealt with it in a court of law. He chose to commit suicide instead of trying to clear his name. That's entirely on him - not the US government.

Colin McGregor said,

He stole. Plain and simple. Law is law. You do something illegal you pay end of story. I've done lots of illegal things in my day but I also took my punishment like a man not tried to rationalize HOW illegal my acts were.

its not that plain and simple, go ask someone in your family if anyone lost his/her young soul.
so according to you stealing a bread is equal to killing a guard while robbing a bank..... how classy