Swartz, aged 26, commited suicide by hanging himself in his Brooklyn apartment, his family in Chicago confirmed in a statement on Saturday.
In their statement, Swartz's family expressed not only grief over his death but bitterness toward federal prosecutors pursuing the case in Massachusetts against him.
"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach," the statement from his family and girlfriend said.
Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, faculty director for Safra Center for Ethics where Swartz was once a fellow, wrote: "We need a better sense of justice. ... The question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labelled a `felon.'"
more after the jump
As a young teenager, Swartz helped create RSS, a family of Web feed formats used to gather updates from blogs, news headlines, audio and video for users. He co-founded the social news website Reddit, which was later sold to Conde Nast, as well as the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigns against Internet censorship.
SSwartz faced 13 felony charges, including breaching site terms and intending to share downloaded files through peer-to-peer networks, computer fraud, wire fraud, obtaining information from a protected computer, and criminal forfeiture.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges. His federal trial was to begin next month. If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.
JSTOR announced this week that it would make "more than 4.5 million articles" publicly available for free.
Her is the moving statement by his family on rememberaaronsw.com ; a site created to immortalise him.......
Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing.
Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.
Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.
Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.
Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.
This is so sad. May his soul Rest in Peace.