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Feds drop charges against Internet activist Swartz

HighlPark native AarSwartz co-founded social medisite Reddit when he was 14. | AP/ThoughtWorks Pernille Ironside

Highland Park native Aaron Swartz co-founded the social media site Reddit when he was 14. | AP/ThoughtWorks, Pernille Ironside

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Updated: February 16, 2013 6:18AM

Federal prosecutors in Boston dismissed charges Monday against Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz, the Highland Park native who was found dead in his New York apartment last week.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and the lead prosecutor on the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, filed a three-line notice of dismissal in court Monday.

The notice says the case is being dismissed because of Swartz’s death. Such filings are routine when a defendant dies before trial.

Swartz was indicted in 2011 on 13 counts, including wire fraud and computer fraud. Prosecutors alleged he illegally gained access to millions of academic articles through the academic database JSTOR. His trial was scheduled to begin in April.

Swartz’s family says his suicide was “the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”

MIT’s Web site was hacked Sunday by online activist group Anonymous in a tribute to tech whiz Swartz, who killed himself just weeks before he was to go to trial on charges he stole files from the university, according to media reports.

The attack came hours after President L. Rafael Reif said the university would investigate how its case against Swartz was handled. Anonymous posted a call for reform of Internet law and how such cases are prosecuted.

According to the Washington Post link to the hacked site, Anonymous said: “The government’s prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for — freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it — enabling the collective betterment of the world through the facilitation of sharing — an ideal that we should all support.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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