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Aaron Swartz Lawyer: I Warned Prosecutors Of Suicide Risk

Aaron Swartz photo by Sage Ross via Wikipedia
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Lawyer claims prosecutors said Swartz would have been safer in jail

The lawyer of Internet activist and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide last week, said he had warned prosecutors about the risk the 26-year-old would kill himself, according to the Associated Press.

Boston attorney Andrew Good, who represented Swartz in a case in which the former Harvard fellow was accused of stealing documents from online journal archive JSTOR in 2011, claimed prosecutors only responded by saying Swartz would have been safe in jail.

Aaron Swartz photo by Sage Ross via Wikipedia leadThe comments come on the day of Swartz’s funeral. He was found dead by a friend last week. Family, friends and colleagues subsequently slammed both MIT, where Swartz was alleged to have set up a system to siphon off documents from JSTOR, and the Department of Justice for pursuing the case, even though JSTOR had settled its dispute with him in 2011, when he returned the documents to it.

Tears and anger over Swartz death

Swartz was threatened with 30 years in prison and a possible $1 million fine, for something many have claimed was akin to taking out an excessive number of library books. His case was due to be heard in April.

Prosecutors posthumously dismissed all charges against Swartz today, as is standard for a deceased defendant. MIT has set up its own internal investigation to explore how it may have contributed to Swartz’s suicide.

Tributes have been flooding in for Swartz, who was a precocious talent. He contributed to the development of the RSS protocol at just 14 and then developed Infogami, a site which would morph into social news-sharing site Reddit.

He also set up Demand Progress, which was a major force in the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was heavily criticised for its draconian legislation.

Hacktivist group Anonymous decided to vent its anger over the Swartz tragedy by hacking the MIT website and claiming it would hit the DoJ too.

Others have said the US should look at its laws, especially what constitutes a computer crime.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said yesterday that hacking laws in the US were too vague, overly broad and carried excessive penalties.

“The CFAA’s vague language, broad reach, and harsh punishments combine to create a powerful weapon for overeager prosecutors to unleash on people they don’t like,” wrote the EFF’s senior staff attorney Marcia Hofmann.

“Aaron was facing the possibility of decades in prison for accessing the MIT network and downloading academic papers as part of his activism work for open access to knowledge.

“No prosecutor should have tools to threaten to end someone’s freedom for such actions, but the CFAA helped to make that fate a realistic fear for Aaron.”

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