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. – Official Statement from the family and partner of Aaron Swartz
ANYONE WHO’S been on the web writing as long as I have has heard of Aaron Schwartz. Not only was he a technological genius, but there seems to be few successful internet advances to which he wasn’t attached. His aggressive entrepreneurial curiosity is what put him in the headlights of U.S. authorities.
Somewhere in there, Aaron’s recklessness put him right in harm’s way. Aaron snuck into MIT and planted a laptop in a utility closet, used it to download a lot of journal articles (many in the public domain), and then snuck in and retrieved it. This sort of thing is pretty par for the course around MIT, and though Aaron wasn’t an MIT student, he was a fixture in the Cambridge hacker scene, and associated with Harvard, and generally part of that gang, and Aaron hadn’t done anything with the articles (yet), so it seemed likely that it would just fizzle out. Instead, they threw the book at him. Even though MIT and JSTOR (the journal publisher) backed down, the prosecution kept on. – RIP, Aaron Schwartz
There are also reports that Schwartz was battling migraines and depression. If this is true, and as a former migraine sufferer, all I can offer is that the combination is deadly. The unending pain that severe migraines bring become so debilitating that when you put a dogged legal prosecutor hounding you on top of it the combination can lead you to think about unimaginable thoughts and in Schwartz’s case, act on them.
Lawrence Lessig’s Tumblr blog reminds everyone that “Aaron brought Aaron here,” because of the line he crossed.
However, there is no one with knowledge of this case writing about it after Aaron’s tragic suicide that isn’t also saying that the prosecutor was an outright bully, finding someone who could be an example, and hounding him for his crimes.