All of JSTOR's documents were free and open to all MIT Students and even guests. He did not penetrate any system in order to obtain the information, and the information was already paid for by our tax dollars.
The information was free, yet they claim you can steal things that are free? Furthermore the charges were dropped. The USDOJ pursued him to make an example of him. There was no other reason to pursue him unless they wanted to scare people. He was to be a martyr for the USDOJ. A hacker was charged and sent to jail by the fed would read headlines. When all he did was download articles we all owned.
The United States no longer has fair and just punishment for crimes. Aaron Swartz was committing a crime, but he did not deserve what he went through. The government should look into why he committed the crime and how the investigation was handled. They control both those aspects of society, making them partially to blame.
Yes, the harsh consequences of his actions caused him to run away from the problem. He wasn't a murderer or a rapist or anything that really hurt another person. It was greed and I don't feel that a few decades in jail was justified for his actions. He was forced to kill himself because at that point of his sentence, his life was already over. He decided to leave the only way he had control over.
Although my first reaction was to blame the government for Aaron's tragedy, I do not believe they are directly responsible for his death. That is not to say that they are not responsible for pulling him into a situation from where he couldn't get out. It's a shame that he could not use his talents to fight the system in a smarter and maybe more conceited way, but that is to be expected from an impetuous young person.
Swartz was trying to take the classic move of the ends justifying the means. The ends, getting useful data (sometimes in the public domain, sometimes not), the means, stealing.
The government had a duty to prosecute the sheer amount of theft that he undoubtedly fomented. He is an example of the guy others who rip music and movies would treat as a hero, justifying their own actions.
He knew he was breaking the law when he stole the JSTOR and PACER documents, but thought he wouldn't face the consequences. He's responsible alone for his actions, not the government (in this case)