Hacker hit with marijuana felony en route to SXSW

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, March 16, 2012 11:48 EDT
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Famed hacker George Hotz, appearing on G4TV's "Attack of the Show." Screenshot via YouTube.
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AUSTIN, TEXAS — The first hacker to break through the security of Apple’s iPhone and Sony’s PlayStation 3 was arrested earlier this month while en route to Austin for an anticipated talk at this year’s South by Southwest conference, police in a remote west Texas county have confirmed to Raw Story.

George Hotz, 22, better known online as “Geohot,” was arrested on a state jail felony for just under a half-pound of marijuana, the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Thursday. News of his arrest was first carried by the Above the Law blog, which cited unnamed law enforcement sources.

Hudspeth County Sheriff spokesperson told Raw Story that Hotz appeared to be in for at least some measure of “pain” after he was stopped on March 9 at a Homeland Security checkpoint in Sierra Blanca and a drug-sniffing dog detected marijuana in the vehicle. He said the total came out to just under a half pound of the drug, which is a state jail felony that carries a fine up to $4,000 and a possible year behind bars.

Hotz was in legal trouble last year as well, after Sony sued him for cracking the security on the PlayStation 3 game console. They settled with Hotz after suffering a major hack by the online collective “Anonymous,” which exposed hundreds of thousands of users’ private information and reportedly cost the company billions of dollars due to the resulting month of network downtime. Members of “Anonymous” claimed they were reacting to Sony’s case against Hotz, which they called an attempt at censorship. He was later hired by Facebook.

The Above the Law blog claims that Hotz holds a medical marijuana license from California, and was carrying only a quarter-ounce of marijuana and several chocolate truffles infused with the plant’s active ingredients. Officers confirmed to Raw Story that he did indeed have marijuana-infused truffles, but did not elaborate on whether the weight of the chocolate counted against him.

If he’d been charged with possessing just over a quarter-ounce, it would actually lower his offense to a Class B misdemeanor, which incurs a mandatory arrest but no lengthy jail term, and a fine of just $500.

The sheriff’s spokesperson also told Raw Story that the marijuana was in a series of bags, which could pose even more legal problems for Hotz if authorities decide to pursue claims that he intended to distribute the drug. Prosecutors in Texas can do that if officers discover contraband substances in multiple containers.

Hudspeth County has become notorious for its checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, where drug arrests are made regularly. Although allegedly an immigration checkpoint, drug-sniffing dogs are always present during operating hours, and they’ve caught other famous faces on the road from California to Texas.

Rapper Snoop Dog, for one, was caught there just earlier this year after authorities claimed they found a small quantity of marijuana on his tour bus. Legendary country artist Willie Nelson, as well, was also facing charges in Hudspeth County from an arrest in 2010.

One hopeful item for Hotz: C.R. “Kit” Bramblett, the county attorney in Hudspeth, told Raw Story last year that he wants to see marijuana decriminalized.

Raw Story was unable to reach Hotz for comment.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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