Well, I would agree with you if this was all there was on the table.
One, hackers commonly get special deals to get out of jail in exchange for a security job.
Two, he killed himself. Not many people kill themselves over 50 years in jail, so clearly we don't know the whole story here.
Three, the information he is obtaining is incredibly expensive to produce. These articles are written by people who have been through a large amount of schooling. This information is worth money, and doing this is essentially stealing. It is like giving newspapers to everyone who didn't subscribe. Yes it was done for pure reasons, but that does not change the fact that it came at the expense of the very source of the information.
Four, hacking in general is a talent that is truly fearsome in this day and age. If he is able to hack something as secure as a datebase, what else could and has he been hacking. The government is perfectly right to have extremely harsh punishment for hacking, because they have secrets that must remain secrets.
Lastly, unlike robbing a bank and manslaughter(when it is actually accidental and not just a reduced sentence), people who hack are usually not acting out of desperation. They are usually one of the following: highly resolved towards committing the action, wanting attention drawn to their talents, or they are simaltaniously commiting treason.
At the most basic level, it does feel wrong; however, 50 years is an appropriate time for hacking. It might actually get to be higher as technology grows even more important to our lives. Hackers actually scare me, because my life is so heavily dependent on technology which they could destroy or change all on their own. I agree that this man was trying to do a good thing, but he went to the dark side to accomplish it.