Scarlett Johansson hacker Christopher Chaney will spend up to 10 years in prison for cracking the code on dozens of celebrity email accounts and uncovering a trove of nude photos. He argued in defense that it was an uncontrollable addiction.
Miley Cyrus, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Alba, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato were among some 50 celebrities who fell victim to Chaney’s hacking prowess.
He posted some of the photos online, and they promptly went viral much to the chagrin of the celebrities whose privacy was invaded. For that, U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero sentenced the Florida native to 10 years in prison and ordered him to pay $66,179 in restitution, according to various reports.
He argued that his hacking was tantamount to an addiction over which he had no control, but ended up pleading guilty to nine counts of computer hacking and wiretapping. Ironically, Haney was able to crack so many email accounts by using information publicly available over the Internet.
Even so, celebrities like Johansson, who has never appeared nude in a movie, said the hacker went too far. “Just because you’re an actor or make films or whatever doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to your own personal privacy,” she said. “If that is seized in some way, it feels unjust. It feels wrong.”
The line is nothing if not blurry on privacy when it comes celebrities who lead very public lives to begin with. But the court drew a clear line against using illegal means to pry.
“That feeling of security can never be given back and there is no compensation that can restore the feeling one has from such a large invasion of privacy,” Aguilera said in a statement prior to the sentencing.
While the punishment may seem severe, Chaney could have faced up to 60 years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for a six-year sentence. But the judge took into account that Haney continued his activities after the FBI arrested him. That amounted to a “callous disregard” for his actions, the judge said.