A few weeks ago, Internet activist and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz committed suicide.He left no note in his New York apartment explaining his death. Many assumed the 26-year-old was depressed based on an earlier blog post Swartz had written.
Swartz was facing potential jail time for hacking into MIT’s computer network and stealing copies of 4.8 million academic papers.
But Swartz’s live-in girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, doesn’t think depression killed Aaron.
She, like Swartz’s father, believes the government indirectly killed Swartz. And her words are damning.
“I believe that Aaron’s death was not caused by depression…I say this because, since his suicide, as I’ve tried to grapple with what happened, I’ve been learning. I’ve researched clinical depression and associated disorders. I’ve read their symptoms, and at least until the last 24 hours of his life, Aaron didn’t fit them.
…I believe Aaron’s death was caused by exhaustion, by fear, and by uncertainty. I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a persecution and a prosecution that had already wound on for 2 years (what happened to our right to a speedy trial?) and had already drained all of his financial resources. I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a criminal justice system that prioritizes power over mercy, vengeance over justice; a system that punishes innocent people for trying to prove their innocence instead of accepting plea deals that mark them as criminals in perpetuity; a system where incentives and power structures align for prosecutors to destroy the life of an innovator like Aaron in the pursuit of their own ambitions.
Ask yourself this: If on January 10, Steve Heymann and Carmen Ortiz at the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office had called Aaron’s lawyer and said they’d realised their mistake and that they were dropping all charges — or even for that matter that they were ready to offer a reasonable plea deal that wouldn’t have marked Aaron as a felon for the rest of his life — would Aaron have killed himself on January 11?
The answer is unquestionably no.