BOSTON (CBS/AP) — The Massachusetts Institute of Technology didn’t seek federal prosecution against free-information activist Aaron Swartz and remained neutral throughout the case, according to an internal review of the school’s actions.
The 26-year-old hanged himself in January as he faced a trial in Boston following allegations that he surreptitiously used MIT’s network to download millions of articles from a scholarly archive with the goal of making information free.
Read: MIT’s Report
He was facing decades behind bars, and Swartz’s supporters said the prosecution was weighing heavily on him when he committed suicide in New York City.
Prosecutors said they offered a deal of four to six months in prison and have defended their actions.
In the aftermath of his death, friends and supporters suggested MIT wrongly assisted federal prosecutors in the legal case against Swartz.
MIT officials said the internal investigation raised concerns about policies and procedures but concluded that the school didn’t target Swartz, seek his federal prosecution or oppose a plea bargain. It found no wrongdoing on the school’s part.
Hal Abelson, the MIT computer science and engineering professor who headed the inquiry, said in a conference call with reporters that officials worked as an independent review panel while analyzing the school’s involvement and “did not attempt to be judgmental.”
The professor said the panel found MIT didn’t intentionally involve federal officials in the investigation. The Secret Service came with Cambridge police after MIT police asked for their help after the discovery of a laptop in a computer wiring closet, he said.
Abelson said MIT stayed neutral in the case, never making statements supporting the prosecution or the defense and never weighing in on potential punishments for Swartz. He said the university also declined to intervene with the U.S. attorney’s office on Swartz’ behalf after his family asked the school to do so.
MIT President L. Rafael Reif says the school’s decisions were “made in good faith.”
Swartz’s girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, called MIT’s report a “whitewash” and said its behavior was “reprehensible.” She said MIT’s lawyers gave prosecutors total access to witnesses and evidence, while refusing to do the same for Swartz’s lawyers.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Diane Stern’s Interview With Robert Swartz
Swartz’s dad, Robert Swartz also weighed in on the report. He told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Diane Stern that MIT made mistakes in handling the case.
“MIT claimed that it was neutral. It was not. And neutrality was the wrong stance. MIT should have advocated on Aaron’s behalf, which it did not,” he said.
“MIT has to understand that it made a mistake in the handling of this case and has to make real structural changes so tragedies of this sort can’t happen again,” he said.
Among those changes, Swartz suggested that his son’s case should have been handled administratively instead of being turned over to police.
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