A hacker has been sentenced to ten years in prison after pleading guilty to breaking into the online accounts of Scarlett Johansson and Christina Aguilera, among others, and posting their personal, and sometimes nude, photos on the internet.
Prosecutors say that between November 2010 and October 2011 Christopher Chaney illegally accessed the email accounts of over fifty entertainment industry insiders. A-list stars like Aguilera, Mila Kunis and Johansson agreed to have their identities made public hoping the move would raise awareness about online intrusion.
Chaney was arrested in October last year as part of a year long investigation of celebrity hacking authorities dubbed "Operation Hackerazzi."
According to a search warrant, the hacker’s computer hard drive contained a number of private celebrity photos and a document that compiled their extensive personal data. He nevertheless continued to pursue his victims even after the FBI seized his computer.
Among the images that provoked the biggest buzz were nude photos taken by Johansson of herself, meant for her then-husband Ryan Reynolds.
A US District Judge sentenced the 35-year-old after hearing from a tearful Johansson in a videotaped statement.
"I have been truly humiliated and embarrassed," Johansson reportedly said. "I find Christopher Chaney's actions to be perverted and reprehensible."
“It just happened and snowballed,” Chaney said. “I didn’t know how to stop doing it myself.”
According to prosecutors, the Florida-based man also targeted two other women he knew, sending nude pictures of one former co-worker to her father. The judge noted the damage to the women was even worse than that experienced by Chaney's celebrity victims, AP reported.
The unnamed women wrote in letters to the judge that their lives have been ruined by the hacker's actions. One of them said she suffered from anxiety and panic attacks; the other reported she was depressed and paranoid.
"It's hard to fathom the mindset of a person who would accomplish all of this," District Judge S. James Otero told AP. "These types of crimes are as pernicious and serious as physical stalking," he added.
Chaney faced a maximum sentence of 60 years and apologized in court but denied that he had sent naked photos of women he knew to their relatives.
"I don't know what else to say other than I'm sorry," the hacker was quoted as saying. "I could be sentenced to never use a computer again and I wouldn't care,” he noted.
Another victim, actress Renee Olstead, said in court she attempted to kill herself after Chaney leaked nude photos of her.
"I just really hope this doesn't happen to someone else," she said. "You can lose everything because of the actions of a stranger."
Although the judge said he wished he could sentence Chaney to lifetime supervision, Chaney will be placed on three years of supervised probation when he is released and will have to notify officials of his online accounts.