Celebrity hacker pleads guilty in U.S. court deal
LOS ANGELES — A 35-year-old computer hacker pleaded guilty Monday to breaking into the email accounts of stars including Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis, and was taken in custody.
Florida hacker Christopher Chaney, who had been free on bond since his arrest last October — weeks after nude photos of Johansson appeared online — faces up to 60 years in jail.
Judge S. James Otero said he did not understand why Chaney continued hacking — including accessed the email of a member of the entertainment industry identified as “C.B.” — even after his home was searched in February 2010.
“I just don’t understand why any person that is rational could continue this conduct” after being “put on notice there is a federal investigation” of his actions, US district court judge Otero said in Los Angeles.
The judge said it seems as if Chaney “cannot resist his impulses to commit these offenses. … I just don’t understand the mindset.”
Chaney, who looked shocked when he was ordered into federal custody, faces up to 60 years plus fines and restitution of about $2.5 million when he is sentenced on July 23.
That is much less than the 121 years he could face if convicted on all 26 indictments he was initially charged with. His lawyer announced last week that Chaney would plead guilty on nine counts, in a plea deal.
His arrest by FBI agents last October grew out of an 11-month investigation into the hacking of over 50 entertainment celebrities, including Johansson, Kunis and Christina Aguilera.
The indictments against him include accessing and damaging computers, wire tapping and identify theft. He was freed on bail in Jacksonville, Florida, where he lives, pending the LA court case.
Aguilera’s computer was hacked in December 2010, when racy photos of her also hit the Internet. Kunis’s cell phone was hacked in September that year with photos of her, including one in a bathtub, spread online.
Hacked pictures of Johansson, star of “The Horse Whisperer” and “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” showed her in a state of undress in a home setting.