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Crowdfunding to cover UGA hacker's legal fees

posted Jan 3, 2015, 9:04 PM by J Shaw   [ updated Jan 3, 2015, 9:05 PM ]
A crowdfunding effort to cover legal expenses for a Georgia Tech student indicted for allegedly hacking into the University of Georgia’s computer system has raised nearly $10,000 of its $30,000 goal in just two days.

The GoFundMe initiative, online at, was started by Sage Pickren, brother of Tech student Ryan Pickren, who was indicted on Dec. 16 by a Clarke County grand jury on a felony charge of computer trespass.

Sage Pickren has set a goal of collecting $30,000 on his brother’s behalf “to help him pay his legal fees and to clear his good name,” according to the “Free Ryan Pickren” page at GoFundMe. As of late Friday afternoon, the campaign had attracted $9,942.

The crowdfunding effort also includes a pledge from Sage Pickren that any proceeds from the fundraising effort beyond the money needed by his brother “will be distributed equally to The Georgia Fund and GT Roll Call, the unrestricted annual funds for the two schools ... .”

The hack occurred on Thanksgiving, two days before the heated annual intrastate rivalry football game between the two schools. An entry added to UGA’s online calendar for noon on Nov. 29, kickoff time for the game in Athens, read “Get ass kicked by GT.”
Georgia did lose the game, falling 30-24 to Tech in overtime.

According to UGA officials, the calendar entry was on the website for only a short time, appearing for about an hour before it was taken down.

Other Thanksgiving hacks to the UGA website — using the Internet address to direct people to the site, and using the address to direct people to the McDonald’s online career page — also were discovered and quickly addressed by the university.

University information technology personnel subsequently reported that the hack revealed what a spokesman described as “a vulnerability in our software” that was plugged.

Following the Dec. 16 indictment, a Superior Court judge issued a bench warrant on Dec. 22 for 21-year-old Ryan Pickren’s arrest. Pickren surrendered the next day at the Clarke County Jail, and was released on a $5,000 bond. The felony offense of computer trespass is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

The largest single donation to the GoFundMe campaign as of Friday afternoon was $2,500, with donations of $400 and $250 rounding out the top three donors. Most of the rest of the donations fall between $10 and $100.

Among the donors is George P. Burdell, a fictitious Tech student first “enrolled” in the school in 1927.

Attempts to reach the Pickren brothers on Friday for comment were unsuccessful, but comments left by many donors on the GoFundMe page are, perhaps not surprisingly, uniformly critical of the decision to indict Ryan Pickren on the felony charge.

“Can’t believe this passes the sniff test for felony prosecution,” wrote one $50 donor. “Ridiculous waste of taxpayer money for a harmless college prank. He did UGA a favor by showing them how vulnerable they are.”

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