Aaron Swartz, prominent Internet activist credited as one of Reddit’s co-founders, was eulogized at his funeral Tuesday, with his father saying his son was “killed by the government” and accusing the government of driving his son to commit suicide over felony charges.
Swartz, 26, was found dead last week in Brooklyn amid charges that he stole millions of files from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Swartz, who was a prominent activist for a more open Internet and who has been described as a computer prodigy, faced a possible long-term prison sentence and a steep fine after allegedly obtaining access to articles from MIT and downloading millions of them.
“He was killed by the government, and MIT betrayed all of its basic principles,” father Robert Swartz said at the Chicago memorial service, reported the Chicago Sun-Times. His father added, “[Aaron was] hounded by the government, and MIT refused him.”
According to the Boston Globe, Swartz faced as many as 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
His death sparked outrage across the Internet and a salvo of criticism against the prosecutors involved in his case.
“His suicide followed an over-zealous prosecution for a crime with no victims—by a Justice Department that has yet to prosecute the Wall Street bankers who destroyed our economy and harmed millions of lives,” according to an email statement from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which Swartz contributed to. “Our hearts go out to Aaron’s family and partner.”
Following Swartz’s death, federal prosecutors in Boston dropped federal charges against him.
On Tuesday, there was a petition launched on the White House’s website to oust District Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who was in charge of Swartz’s case, and the petition has already reached 25,000 signatures—the number required for an official White House response. The petition states that Ortiz should be removed “from office for overreach.”
At Swartz’s funeral, his mentor, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, said that “bullying” prosecutors helped cause his death, while his friends and associates said that more proportional penalties should be applied in similar cases, according to the Globe.
“I just hope that prosecutors and people at the Department of Justice can find a way … to consider proportion and fairness,” Elliot Peters, Swartz’s lawyer, told the paper.
According to the government’s charges, Swartz used MIT’s computer network to access the JSTOR database in an attempt to make its content widely available on the Internet for free. The database’s content is usually provided only to paid subscribers, according to the Globe.
On Sunday, MIT President Rafael Reif said in a letter to the MIT community that faculty and students “are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.”
An analysis will be conducted into MIT’s involvement into the case, according to Reif.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.