At approximately 4:19 p.m. on November 27, an unknown individual gained access to the University of Georgia’s computer network, and was able to publish an “unauthorized message”, reading “Get ass kicked by GT”, on the master calendar of the university’s website, according to an incident report from the University of Georgia (UGA) Police Department.
Ryan Pickren, 21, a third-year student at Tech, was indicted by a Athens-Clarke County Grand Jury on December 16 in relation to the incident for a felony count of computer trespass. Six days later, an arrest warrant for Pickren was signed by a superior court judge. Pickren’s attorney, John Garland, was contacted by Gagliano by email notifying him of the warrant. Pickren was taken into custody on December 23 and released on a $5,000 bond later the same day. Felony computer trespass carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $50,000.
Administrators from UGA were contacted, but according to Timothy Chester, Vice President of Information Technology, the University cannot comment on the incident because it is an open investigation.
Multiple attempts to reach Pickren were unsuccessful. Garland was contacted by the Technique, but declined to comment on his clients case.
Student opinion on the case has been fairly supportive of Pickren.
“It was a bit of an overreaction on UGA’s part,” said third-year ME Zac Zachow. “He didn’t cause any irreversible damage.”.
“While it was heroic, it was technically wrong, but he doesn’t deserve such a harsh punishment,” said Sarah Lamothe, a first-year BME.
Others were more emphatic for their support of Pickren.
“He’s a legend,” said Preston Smith, a first-year business major.
The incident was first reported to the UGA Police Department by Chris Workman and Claude (Brian) Rivers, both employees for the UGA Information Technology Department. Senior Police Officer Chris Storey was dispatched to the Enterprise Information Technology Services (EITS) building on Cedar Street in Athens to investigate the report, which included interviewing of the reporting parties. Over the course of the next two weeks, a case was built up through “investigation into unauthorized access and alterations to UGA computer network” according to the UGA PD daily log.
Sage Pickren, who claims to be Pickren’s brother, created a GoFundMe.com campaign on December 30 in order to support Ryan’s legal fees. The page contains a number of quotes from various news outlets questioning the validity of the severe charge.
One of the primary arguments used by defenders of Pickren is the “no victim” claim. It has been argued that, since no employee of UGA was actually harmed and long-term damage was done, a prosecution is not, in fact, warranted. Another argument has been that the offense was clearly intended as a prank preceding the highly anticipated Thanksgiving weekend game between Tech and UGA.
No date has been set for the trial.