Aaron Swartz, 26, Internet freedom activist, Reddit co-founder, and computer programmer, committed suicide Friday, and his funeral was held Tuesday in Highland Park, Ill. His father, Robert Swartz, spoke at the funeral and told mourners his son was "killed by the government" and that it "hounded" him.
Robert Swartz clearly expressed his feelings about what happened to his son, and he's joined by many who believe MIT had a role in Swartz's death by not dropping computer fraud charges. This led to the US Attorney's Office investigation and the 13-count felony computer fraud indictment against Aaron Swartz.
A petition asking the White House to remove US Attorney Carmen Ortiz from her position for prosecutorial overreach in the case against Aaron Swartz is now on the White House official website. The White House responds to petitions that have over 25,000 signatures, and this one has exceeded 35,000.
MSNBC's Chris Hayes criticized Ortiz's office for "having prosecuted Aaron with such recklessly disproportionate vigor." Lawrence Lessig, who was a friend of Aaron Swartz and is a Harvard law professor, wrote a piece titled, "Prosecutor as Bully," stating "That person [Aaron] is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you."
Ortiz's office submitted a statement late Wednesday which begins as follows:
"As a parent and a sister, I can only imagine the pain felt by the family and friends of Aaron Swartz, and I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy to everyone who knew and loved this young man. I know that there is little I can say to abate the anger felt by those who believe that this office’s prosecution of Mr. Swartz was unwarranted and somehow led to the tragic result of him taking his own life . . . "
The Boston Globe reported that on Monday, the charges against Aaron Swartz were dismissed in court via a three-line notice of dismissal filed by Carmen Ortiz and the lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant US Attorney Stephen Heyman.
Another White House petition asking President Barack Obama to posthumously pardon (although he was never tried or convicted) Aaron Swartz was created on Jan. 12. The petition states a presidential pardon " . . . will send a strong message about the improportionality with which he (Aaron Swartz) was prosecuted. As of this writing, it has 20,815 signatures, nearing the goal of 25,000.
Aaron Swartz's work and life will continuously effect change, although he's not here to see it. He has a legacy and won't solely be remembered for taking his own life; he did more in 26 years than others do in a full lifetime, and his work will inspire more brilliant young people.
The Chicago Tribune reported his partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, spoke at his funeral. In between her tears, she said, "Aaron wanted so badly to change the world . . . He wanted it more than money. He wanted it more than fame."
I expressed my condolences, which best surmise my thoughts, by leaving a written message on the Remember Aaron Swartz official website:
I, too, have a boy, who is now 13, a brilliant child. He does not think in a typical fashion. He sees injustice in what many accept as normal and has a unique view of the world.
He is a visual artist, thoughtful and sensitive; he is here with me now, asleep and bound to wake up early -- drawing, creating, living, and loving. When I think of my boy, I can only imagine Aaron’s fear and pain, then I weep for him, and I pray.