Feds posthumously drop charges against Aaron Swartz

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Federal prosecutors dropped charges against late Internet pioneer and activist Aaron Swartz, according to a court filing Monday morning.

The filing — a two sentence notice of dismissal — was made by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, citing Swartz’ death on January 11 as the reason for the dismissal.

“Such filings are routine when a defendant dies before trial,” reported the Associated press.

Swartz committed suicide by hanging himself Friday after a lengthy struggle with depression and a long, drawn-out battle with the Justice Department over allegations of felony hacking. Swartz denied the charges.

Swartz was charged with 13 counts of felony hacking for allegedly downloading millions of publicly-funded scientific and court documents from the online academic archive service JSTOR in January 2011 while in a closet at MIT. JSTOR dropped its charges against Swartz in 2011, but federal prosecutors had decided to press forward on the case anyway.

He faced a trial in April, a potential fine of a million dollars and 35 years of prison time.

In an email to The Boston Globe, Swart’s attorney called the dropped charges “too little too late,” stating, “[The dismissal] would have been welcome this time last week.”

Family and friends of Swartz blame federal prosecutors, specifically Ortiz, and MIT for contributing to the cause of Swartz’s death.

The Boston Globe reported Monday that federal prosecutors had offered a plea deal to Swartz just months before his death.

“Swartz’s lead defense attorney, Elliot Peters, said today that both he and Swartz rejected the plea deal offered by the office of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, and instead were pushing for a trial where federal prosecutors would have been forced to publicly justify their pursuit of Swartz,” reported the Boston Globe.

Peters had “planned to try and bypass trial prosecutors”, reported the Boston Globe, worried over Swartz’s emotional vulnerability. He had hoped to “use a letter-writing campaign from local academics to convince [U.S. Attorney Carmen] Ortiz to change the proposals.”

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