Photo: Selfagency via Flickr
The family of Aaron Swartz, along with his partner, Taren Stinebricker-Kaufmann, have released a statement about his death and announced plans for a funeral on Tuesday, January 15.Swartz committed suicide by hanging himself on Friday, according to the statement.
In the statement, the family blamed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and federal prosecutors, who pressed criminal hacking charges which carried a potential sentence of more than 30 years in jail against Swartz for an incident in which he downloaded a large number of academic papers over MIT’s network, for his death.
“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” they wrote. “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.”
That echoes a criticism made by Swartz’s friend Larry Lessig, the Harvard University professor and well-known authority on Internet law, who called the government prosecutor in the case a “bully” and said that Swartz had been “driven to the edge” by the government’s aggressive handling of the legal case.
Here’s the full statement, which was also published on a site the family created to memorialize Aaron, rememberaaronsw.com:
Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing.
Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.
Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.
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.
Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.
Aaron’s funeral will be held on Tuesday, January 15 at Central Avenue Synagogue, 874 Central Avenue, Highland Park, Illinois 60035. Further details, including the specific time, will be posted at http://rememberaaronsw.com, along with announcements about memorial services to be held in other cities in coming weeks.
Remembrances of Aaron, as well as donations in his memory, can be submitted at http://rememberaaronsw.com
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