26-year old Aaron Swartz was an accomplished man — it’s not difficult to see his influence on today’s web. He co-authored the specification for RSS 1.0 at age 14 and was a prominent internet activist throughout his life. Hacker News went ablaze with comments of support for his work.
The Tech was informed of Swartz’s suicide by his uncle Michael Wolf and confirmed the news with his lawyer early this morning. The Tech has covered Aaron Swartz’s case since August 2011, and we’ve compiled our coverage below.
Swartz began mass downloading JSTOR documents around September 24. JSTOR blocked his access for the first time on September 26. This repeated on October 2, December 26, and January 4. Swartz was apprehended on January 6, 2011.
July 11, 2011:
Swartz indicted on four counts by the Federal District Court for wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer.
August 3, 2011: Swartz indicted for JSTOR theft
In The Tech’s first article following Swartz’s indictment and arrest, The Tech describes the alleged events that led up to his indictment, including details on the laptop Swartz used to allegedly download 4.8 million documents from JSTOR, the wiring closet that Swartz accessed in the basement of Building 16 on MIT’s campus, his arrest, and legal ramifications.
November 18, 2011: Swartz indicted for breaking and entering
Swartz was indicted a second time on November 17, 2011 for breaking and entering, larceny over $250, and unauthorized access to a computer network. He was indicted this time in the Middlesex Superior Court — previously, he was indicted in the Federal District Court.
December 2, 2011: Swartz arraigned
Swartz was arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court on November 30, 2011, where he pleaded not guilty.
March 16, 2012: State drops charges against Swartz; federal charges remain
Middlesex Superior Court dropped all six charges against Swartz on March 8, 2012 — two counts of breaking and entering, one count of larceny over $250, and three counts of unauthorized access to a computer system. The four federal charges against Swartz remained — wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer.
September 12, 2012
The federal indictment with four counts against Swartz was superseded. The revised indictment was for thirteen counts.
September 24, 2012: Swartz arraigned on a superseding indictment
Aaron Swartz pleaded not guilty to all 13 counts during his arraignment on a superseding indictment.
October 19, 2012: Aaron Swartz asks court to suppress data from MIT
According to a court document filed by Swartz and his legal team on October 5, MIT provided the Secret Service with details and logs of Swartz’s activity on MIT’s network without a warrant or subpoena. Swartz’s filings said that this release violated MIT’s policy. MIT said that its actions were necessary to “protect its network.”
November 2, 2012: Swartz gets high-powered attorneys
Swartz hired new legal representation — Keker and Van Nest, a top law firm in San Francisco, to represent him. Elliot R. Peters led his legal team. Swartz was previously represented by Martin Weinberg.
November 20, 2012: Swartz hid behind helmet, but only after he was already photographed
The government filed a response to several motions by Swartz’s legal team to suppress evidence on November 16. The government replied with 22 exhibits, including several photographs showing Swartz as he entered Building 16 and his attempt to cover his face with his helmet. The government’s response attempted to justify the FBI’s copying of Swartz’s RAM without a search warrant.
December 7, 2012: Aaron Swartz trial may be delayed
Attorneys for Swartz asked the federal district court to delay Swartz’s trial from February 4, 2013 to June and responded to the government’s replies from November 16. At the status conference scheduled for the following Friday, the judge decided to have an evidentiary hearing for 3 hours on January 25 and trial on April 1.
January 11, 2013: Aaron Swartz commits suicide
On January 12, 2013, The Tech published a short article after hearing from Swartz’s uncle and confirming Swartz’s suicide with his attorney Elliot Peters. Upon hearing of his death, many people posted on Hacker News and Reddit as well as in comments on the New York Times article on Swartz’s death and other prominent blogs. Cory Doctorow, an author and friend of Swartz, published a remembrance on BoingBoing. Larry Lessig, a professor at Harvard and friend, posted Aaron and prosecutorial bullying. Quinn Norton wrote about him on her own blog.