Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, girlfriend of the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz, has opened up about her time with Swartz and her belief about why he took his own life early January. “I believe that Aaron’s death was not caused by depression,” she wrote in a reflective blog post recounting her years with him,
“I say this with the understanding that many other people would not have made the same choice that Aaron made, even under the same pressures he faced,” she explained, noting numerous media reports emphasizing his depression as a possible factor.
Stinebrickner-Kauffman recalled Swartz as a man of joy, energy and inspiration, worn down by a lengthy battle with the Justice Department.
Swartz faced a potential fine of $1 million and 50 years in prison for releasing to the public more than 4 million publicly funded academic papers from behind the pay wall of the academic research service JSTOR.
“I believe Aaron’s death was caused by exhaustion, by fear, and by uncertainty,” Stinebrickner-Kauffman wrote.
“I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a persecution and a prosecution that had already wound on for 2 years (what happened to our right to a speedy trial?) and had already drained all of his financial resources,” she added, echoing the Swartz family’s statement immediately following his death.
“I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a criminal justice system that prioritizes power over mercy, vengeance over justice; a system that punishes innocent people for trying to prove their innocence instead of accepting plea deals that mark them as criminals in perpetuity.”