The more than 35,000 people calling on the Obama administration to fire the U.S. District Attorney in charge of prosecuting Aaron Swartz might have new ammunition in their fight.
The 26-year-old Reddit co-founder killed himself last week in his New York City apartment.
His family has blamed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and federal prosecutors for his death, claiming the pending criminal hacking charges against him caused Swartz to take his own life.
And now Swartz's former lawyer Andy Good has claimed in an interview with The Boston Globe that prosecutor Steve Heymann knew the Internet activist was a suicide risk but wouldn't relent.
“The thing that galls me is that I told Heymann the kid was a suicide risk,” Good told the Globe. “His reaction was a standard reaction in that office, not unique to Steve. He said, ‘Fine, we’ll lock him up.’ I’m not saying they made Aaron kill himself. Aaron might have done this anyway. I’m saying they were aware of the risk, and they were heedless.”
Elliot Peters, Swartz's lawyer at the time of his death, said he encountered that same hardball attitude when prosecutors refused to negotiate a plea deal that would have resulted in no prison time for the 26-year-old, the Globe reported.
Peters says prosecutors demanded that Swartz plead guilty to 13 felonies and spend six months behind bars.
“There was such rigidity with the people we were dealing with,” Peters told the Globe. “I couldn’t find anyone in that office to talk about proportionality and humanity. It was driven by a desire to turn this into a significant case, so that some prosecutor could put it in his portfolio.”
"The gov was really in trouble there," Peters wrote in an email.
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