Sad, painful and infuriating. I certainly would not presume to know, but reading news accounts and blogs about his death, I can’t help wondering if so many people in awe of his intellect and accomplishment (and basking in their proximity to him) failed to consider that this was in fact a very young person making increasingly bizarre decisions, and repudiating adults who might have questioned some of his actions.
And yes, it does appear that MIT handled the JSTOR matter ineptly.
Far worse, though, was the federal government which refused any discussion, insisting that Swartz plead guilty to a felony and serve time behind bars. The prospect of a prison term and over a million dollars in fines, although probably unlikely in the legal long run, would have terrified anyone who felt as isolated as this young man must have felt, to the point of acting irrationally.
I know nothing of Swartz’s state of mental health, but I do know the prosecutor who charged him and refused to reduce the charges and place him on probation was a sick individual. Swartz committed a victimless crime to protest the corporate monopoly of scholarly literature. The prosecutor, acting out of malice, or hoping to advance her career, decided to make an example of him. I join the chorus of outraged folks calling for her termination.