MIT releases report on Aaron Swartz case, finds ‘no wrongdoing’ on its part

Aaron Swartz was facing up to 35 years in prison when he committed suicide in January.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has concluded that there was “no wrongdoing on MIT’s part” in the prosecution and suicide of internet activist and computer programmer Aaron Swartz.

The findings were released today in a 180-page report that followed a review conducted by Hal Abelson, a professor of computer science and engineering at MIT. Abelson was asked to lead the internal probe by MIT President L. Rafael Reif in January after Swartz hanged himself in his New York apartment.

Swartz, who was 26, was facing up to 35 years in prison after he was accused of breaking into an MIT closet in 2011 and making unauthorized downloads of millions of scholarly articles from the journal archive JSTOR. According to a federal indictment, Swartz was allegedly going to make the articles free and downloadable online.

The open-access advocate’s death resulted in a wave of criticism, hackings and threats aimed at MIT for what Swartz’s supporters saw as complacency or even condemnation regarding the programmer’s prosecution, which many observers thought to be too harsh.

But, the report concluded, MIT does not believe it played any serious part in Swartz’s prosecution or death.

“MIT did not request that federal charges be brought against Aaron Swartz,” the school said in a statement. “It was not consulted about its opinion about appropriate charges or punishment, and it did not offer any. MIT was not involved in any plea negotiations, and was never asked — by either the prosecution or the defense — to approve or disapprove of any plea agreement.”

See Page 2 for what Aaron Swartz’s loved ones think of the report’s findings.

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