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MIT: Hoax caller cited revenge for activist death

MIT executive vice president Israel Ruiz wrote in a campus-wide email on Wednesday that the caller indicated the gunman “was retaliating against people involved in the suicide of Aaron Swartz,” the Boston Herald reported. Ruiz wrote that MIT’s president was identified as the target.

Swartz killed himself in New York last month while awaiting trial on charges he used MIT’s computer network to illegally download nearly 5 million academic articles from an online clearinghouse for scholarly journals. Critics blame federal prosecutors for his suicide, saying they insisted he plead guilty to all 13 felony charges he faced and serve four to six months in prison or go to trial and face up to 35 years. Prosecutors have defended the charges against him and said they acted appropriately.

Police in Cambridge, where MIT is located, said the hoax report about the gunman came through a Sprint Internet relay service generally used by people with hearing or speech impairments. They said a Sprint employee called them to relay the message and gave them the name of a possible suspect mentioned by the caller.

MIT said investigators determined the staffer named in the Saturday call was “found not to be connected to the incident.”

The message indicated a man dressed in body armor and carrying a rifle was in a main building on campus. The campus went on lockdown for about three hours.

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