Hundreds gathered at Cooper Union's Great Hall yesterday to remember Aaron Swartz. The 26-year-old hacker and Internet activist hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment on January 11. His girlfriend Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said, "Aaron could do magic. I’m very sad we’ll never see the way he would have changed the world.”

While he publicly discussed his depression, family and friends believe that Swartz killed himself because of an impending federal criminal trial. Swartz had accessed a network at MIT (through a basement server closet) and downloaded 4.8 million of academic journals from the online journal archive JSTOR. While JSTOR settled with Swartz, MIT and the U.S. Attorney's Office pursued the case intensely.

During the memorial, Stinebrickner-Kauffman said, "He faced a deeply dysfunctional criminal justice system... He was so scared and so frustrated and so desperate and, more than anything else, just so weary. I think he just couldn't take it another day... In the end, he couldn't allow (prosecutors) to control him, either." The U.S. Attorney's office was seeking a lengthy prison sentence (up to 35 years) and a $1 million fine. She added, "The U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts must be held accountable for its actions... M.I.T. must ensure that it’s never complicit in another event like this."

His former girlfriend Quinn Norton said, "We talk about how extraordinary he was, but he wasn't... He could be funny, and greedy, and petty, and loving, and curious, and hopeful, and strange. But in a culture that is ruled by fear, he taught and showed me that trying is more important than being afraid."

Edward Tufte, the Yale professor and statistician, didn't understand why MIT wasn't celebrating making academic journals open for everyone, "Aaron's unique quality was that he was marvelously and vigorously different. Perhaps we can all be a little more different too."

Here's a video of David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress which Swartz founded, at the memorial—he discusses how he and Swartz discovered federal investigators were trying to stake out Swartz's parents' house:

And here's OK Go's Damian Kulash performing "Everybody's Heart's Breaking Now":

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz put out a statement last week, "I must, however, make clear that this office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case."