Accused Hollywood hacker does about face, pleads not guilty
A Florida man has pleaded not guilty to charges he broke into the email accounts of actresses Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis, and as many as 50 other celebrities, and made off with nude photos and personal information.
Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Florida, denied the allegations contained in a 26-count indictment filed last month during his first court appearance on Tuesday in California, where the charges were filed. US Magistrate Judge Patrick Walsh increased Chaney’s bail to $110,000 from $10,000 after prosecutors presented evidence he may have stalked three additional victims, including a 13-year-old girl.
Chaney’s denial came after he publicly apologized for the crime during a television news segment broadcast by Jacksonville, Florida, television station WAWS.
“It started as curiosity and it turned to just being addictive,” Chaney said in front of a video camera. “Seeing the behind-the-scenes of what’s going on with the people you see on the big screen. I was almost relieved when they came in and took the computers inside.”
Indeed, even after federal investigators seized the Chaney’s computer in February, the defendant continued his hacking scheme against an unnamed actress for six more months, the Associated Press reported, citing a prosecutor in the case.
“We have great concern that he can’t stop himself,” the news service quoted US Attorney Lisa Feldman as saying.
According to federal prosecutors, Chaney obtained personal information about his victims and used it to breach the email accounts of more than 50 individuals in the entertainment world. Other celebrities allegedly targeted by Chaney included pop singer Christina Aguilera, actress Renee Olstead, and fashion designer Simone Harouche. Nude pictures he lifted from Johansson’s account eventually were published on gossip sites, prompting a federal investigation.
After Chaney accessed the accounts hosted by Apple, Google and Yahoo, he activated their forwarding feature, allowing him to transfer new messages instantaneously to a separate account he controlled.
The AP also cited search warrants and other evidence that suggested Chaney may have stalked the online activities of three other people. One possible victim was a 13-year-old girl, and the other is a Connecticut woman who allegedly was surveilled for the past 12 years.
Chaney’s attorney told the AP the new allegations are completely false.
In a brief article published Tuesday by Vanity Fair, Johansson showed no regrets for snapping nude photos of herself and storing them on an internet-facing account.
“I know my best angles,” she said. “They were sent to my husband. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like I was shooting a porno.” ®