Aaron Swartz, a prodigy in his field, committed suicide in New York City on Friday. He was the co-founded Reddit and political action committee Demand Progress. Swartz was 26 at the time of his death and was diagnosed with depression. At the time Swartz was facing charges for illegally downloading 4.8 million documents from the JSTOR.
However, they are widespread believed that Aaron Swartz death could have been avoided had the US Prosecution Department – lead by U.S. Attorneys Carmen Ortiz and Steve Heymann, put some more prospective on the matter.
Here is what Lawrence Lessig, a friend of Swartz had to say on the matter:
[quote] Since his arrest in January, 2011, I have known more about the events that began this spiral than I have wanted to know. Aaron consulted me as a friend and lawyer. He shared with me what went down and why, and I worked with him to get help. When my obligations to Harvard created a conflict that made it impossible for me to continue as a lawyer, I continued as a friend. Not a good enough friend, no doubt, but nothing was going to draw that friendship into doubt.
..Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been profiting from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.[/quote]
Aaron’s family had also added their voice to the matter with a statement in which they criticize the manner in which the investigation was handled.
According to the family statement:
[quote] 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.[/quote]
Even the JSTOR department, felt that the matter should have been done and dusted a long time ago when Swartz handed back the Academic Articles:
In a statement the JSTOR stated:
[quote] We have had inquiries about JSTOR’s view of this sad event given the charges against Aaron and the trial scheduled for April. The case is one that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset, since JSTOR’s mission is to foster widespread access to the world’s body of scholarly knowledge. At the same time, as one of the largest archives of scholarly literature in the world, we must be careful stewards of the information entrusted to us by the owners and creators of that content. To that end, Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011.[/quote]