Aaron Swartz, a 26-year-old internet prodigy, was found dead in his Brooklyn, N.Y. apartment Friday from an apparent suicide.
At the time of his death, Swartz was facing criminal charges for illegally downloading scholarly journals from Journal Storage by using networks from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He was facing up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine if found guilty, according to CNN.
Swartz had planned on pleading not guilty to all charges.
“I know this case was weighing heavily on his mind,” Swartz’s lawyer told CNN. “It was a significant source of stress for him.”
Swartz was the co-developer of Reddit, a social media website dedicated to bringing user-submitted news stories to the public.
He also helped develop RSS 1.0 at 14 and was an avid Internet blogger.
He had studied at Stanford University but did not enjoy it and dropped out to help develop Reddit.
“Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound and defined his life,” the Swartz family said in a statement. “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.”
L. Rafael Reif, the president of MIT, released an email Sunday expressing his sadness regarding the incident.
He also informed students and staff that an official investigation of MIT’s involvement in the Swartz incident will be conducted.
Reif said the investigation would start with reviewing the “unusual activity” on the MIT network in the fall of 2010.
Swartz had also been suffering from depression and wrote about it in his blog.
In a November 2007 blog post, he wrote:
“At best, you tell yourself that your thinking is irrational, that it is simply a mood disorder, that you should get on with your life. But sometimes that is worse. You feel as if streaks of pain are running through your head, you thrash your body, you search for some escape but find none.”
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