Geohot accused of fleeing the US, sabotaging gear

Reports that PlayStation 3 hacker George Hotz, currently the focus of a major lawsuit from Sony, has fled the country to South America using donated funds supposedly for his defence have been denied by his lawyer.

Hotz, also known as Geohot, came to Sony's attention after using a weakness in the PS3's digital rights management system to derive the private signing key - a move which has allowed other hackers to create custom firmwares that allow illegitimately downloaded games to be executed on the console.

In Sony's most recent filing, it's claimed that while Hotz has turned over his hard drives for investigation he deliberately removed critical components - namely the controller boards - to prevent them from operating. Following what Sony claims is a clear attempt to break the court order, Hotz is claimed to have travelled to South America to avoid Sony's reach.

"Hotz had deliberately removed integral components of his impounded hard drives prior to delivering them to a third party neutral," Sony's filing claims, "and Hotz is now in South America."

The filing also indicates that Hotz's assertion - under oath - that he does not have, and has never had, an account on Sony's PlayStation Network on-line gaming service was not entirely true: one of the impounded PS3s indicated by Hotz to be under his ownership was used to register the account 'blickmanic,' Sony claims, from an IP address in Hotz's home town.

While Hotz's lawyer, Stewart Kellar, hasn't denied that Hotz is in South America, he claims that the legal fund - formed entirely from donations by the 'homebrew' community - was not used to flee the country. "As for any question as to whether Mr. Hotz has used donation money to take a trip to South America, that's pretty silly," Kellar told gaming news site IGN. "Litigating against a massive company like Sony, who is represented by five attorneys, is very costly for a 21-year-old.

"The donation money George has received is being used exclusively for his legal defense. If there are any funds left after the lawsuit, George is planning to donate the money to the [Electronic Frontier Foundation]," Kellar said in his statement.

Kellar also added that the missing controller cards were not removed deliberately, and that the components have now been provided to the court-appointed neutral third party for investigation - 'so the point is moot.'

Sony's civil suit against Hotz continues, and the hacker's seemingly shady actions are unlikely to endear him to the court - assuming he returns from his little vacation abroad.