26 year old Aaron Swart was found dead in his New York apartment on Friday January 11th, weeks before he was to go on trial for downloading subscription-only academic papers with the intent to distribute them.
The hacker-activist was facing federal charges, a possible sentence of 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Guess he couldn’t take it all and so he hanged himself in his apartment in Brooklyn on Friday.
“Aaron has been depressed about his case/upcoming trial, but we had no idea what he was going through was this painful.” Susan Swartz, Aaron’s mother, posted on a hacker section of the Ycombinator Web site today.Sample papers Swartz attempted to set free include “John Berryman: The Poetics of Martyrdom” and “Mapping the Niger, 1798-1832: Trust, Testimony and ‘Ocular Demonstration’ in the Late Enlightenment.” On its own initiative, JSTOR, which hosts the academic papers and never pressed charges against Swartz, started offering limited free access to its archive just this week.Two years ago, in January, 2011, Swartz was arrested for, essentially, setting information free – as an animal-rights activist might liberate a zoo. In 2008, he had thrown open PACER, a subscription-only trove of federal judicial documents. And then he had downloaded the 4.8 million articles from JSTOR. Swartz was ch arged, then, with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer and damaging a protected computer.