This is a follow up to my post yesterday about Aaron Swartz.
Patterico has the full details and documents.
It’s somewhat complicated. I’ll try to summarize Patterico’s research briefly.
On Friday, the day Swartz committed suicide, papers were filed in his federal criminal case which reflected a possibly significant evidentiary defense. In an email filed in connection with a motion to suppress evidence on Swartz’s laptop and a flash drive, it was revealed that the federal government had access to the laptop onto which academic papers were downloaded, which was in the possession of the Cambridge police, for a much more extended period than the government previously had admitted. The significance was that the feds’ excuse for delay in obtaining a search warrant to examine the computer — that they supposedly had no access to the laptop — was inaccurate.
The unreasonable delay in seeking a warrant, as a matter of law, could have resulted in the contents of the laptop and flash drive being excluded from evidence. That would be a significant victory for the the defense in a case in which the feds had demanded substantial jail time and were playing very tough in plea negotiations.
[Swartz's attorney, Eliot] Peters refused to speculate about why Swartz committed suicide. He described Swartz as a “very sensitive and very smart person” who had been “very scared” by the Government prosecution. Peters told me that, in his opinion, the Government had been “awfully unreasonable” in their approach to the case. He said that they insisted that Swartz plead to all 13 felonies. They said that even if Swartz pled guilty, they were going to seek a prison sentence. They told Peters that if the case went to trial and Swartz were convicted, they would seek a prison sentence of 7 to 8 years. They told Peters that they thought the judge would impose that sentence. (Peters told me he didn’t agree; he thought the case was defensible and that even if Swartz lost, Peters didn’t think the judge would have sentenced him to custody time.)
As Patterico notes, Swartz apparently was aware of this significant new development. But whatever else was going on in his life and thinking, it didn’t stop him from taking his own life.