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.
â€œAaronâ€™s death isn’t simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,â€ Swartzâ€™s family said, as quoted by The Belfast Telegraph. â€œDecisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorneyâ€™s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The U.S. Attorneyâ€™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.â€
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 CondÃ© Nast, the company that bought Reddit.
â€œThere 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,â€ Swartz said in the blog post titled â€œA Moment Before Dying.â€
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian called the police and asked them to break into Swartzâ€™s apartment. At the time, he claimed it was just a joke and â€œpeople got freaked out and misinterpretedâ€ the blog post.
JSTOR, the service allegedly hacked by Aaron Swartz, posted a sympathy message on its website and acknowledged he was â€œa truly gifted person who made important contributions to the development of the internet.â€ 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.