Internet whiz kid and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, facing trial in February in a controversial computer-hacking case, committed suicide in his Brooklyn bedroom, cops said Saturday. Swartz, 26, left no note before his Friday morning death in the seventh-floor apartment at a luxury Sullivan Place building, police sources said. His girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, found Swartz’s body hanging from a belt just inside his bedroom window, sources said.
Swartz’s death, ruled a suicide by the city medical examiner, came two years to the day after his arrest on allegations of breaching a computer network to download millions of pages of documents kept at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His trial on federal felony charges, which carried a possible 35-year prison sentence and $1 million fine, was set to begin in February. Swartz had pleaded not guilty. Grieving family members said the federal prosecution drove Swartz to suicide.
“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” his family said in a statement. “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.”
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who could not be reached for comment, paid his respects to the Swartz family via Twitter. Other colleagues remembered Swartz’s exceptional mind. “He was brilliant, and funny,” said friend Larry Lessig, a Harvard Law professor, in a blog post. “A kid genius. A soul, a conscience.”