NEW YORK (AP) — Friends and supporters of Aaron Swartz planned to pay tribute Saturday to the free-information activist and online prodigy, who killed himself last week as he faced trial on hacking charges.
A hero to data-access advocates but a thief in the eyes of prosecutors, Swartz was to be remembered at a public memorial late Saturday afternoon. He was found dead Jan. 11 in a suicide that has intensified debate over how authorities should treat hackers whose goal is to expand public knowledge, not make personal profits.
Swartz, 26, hanged himself in his apartment the month before he was to go on trial in Boston. Federal prosecutors accused him of breaking into a computer wiring closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010 and tapping into the university's computer network to get millions of paid-access scholarly articles, which he planned to make available for free.
Whatever he aimed to do with the data, "stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar," Boston U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said before Swartz' death.
But his family, admirers and some legal experts blasted the case as overreaching that drove Swartz to his death. His father, Robert Swartz, has said his son "was killed by the government."