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Florida man pleads not guilty in celebrity hacking
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A Florida man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to hacking into the email accounts of celebrities such as Christina Aguilera, Mila Kunis and Scarlett Johansson, whose nude photos eventually landed on the Internet.
Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Fla., made his first court appearance in California, where he’s been indicted on 26 counts, including unauthorized access to a computer and wiretapping. If convicted, he faces up to 121 years in prison.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Walsh denied federal prosecutors’ request to remand Chaney to custody but modified his bond to $110,000, and he will wear an electronic monitoring device upon his return to Florida.
A trial has been scheduled for Dec. 27.
Chaney was arrested as part of a yearlong investigation of celebrity hacking that authorities dubbed “Operation Hackerazzi.”
There were more than 50 victims in the case. Some nude photos taken by Johansson herself were posted on the Internet. Chaney offered some material to celebrity blog sites but there wasn’t any evidence that he profited from his scheme, authorities said.
Chaney is accused of mining through publicly available data to figure out password and security questions for celebrity accounts. He hijacked a forwarding feature so that a copy of every email a celebrity received was sent to an account he controlled, according to court documents.
A search warrant unsealed and obtained by The Associated Press said Chaney’s computer hard drive contained numerous private celebrity photos as well as a document that compiled their extensive personal data.
In arguing for a higher bond and time behind bars, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Feldman said that even after FBI agents seized the defendant’s computer in February, he continued his hacking scheme against an actress for six months. She declined to reveal the celebrity’s name.
“We have great concern that he can’t stop himself,” Feldman said. “We think detention would.”
Johansson told Vanity Fair for its December issue that the photos were meant for Ryan Reynolds, who is now her ex-husband.
“There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like I was shooting a porno,” the actress told the magazine.
The pair had their divorce finalized by a judge in July.
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