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Suspect in celebrity hacker case 'sorry for all of this'

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 15, 2011 -- Updated 0058 GMT (0858 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Suspect says, "I am very sorry for all of this"
  • Christopher Chaney says he was not attempting to sell private information he got from celebrity accounts
  • Victims include Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera
  • The celebrity hacker suspect is ordered to appear in a Los Angeles court on November 1

(CNN) -- The Jacksonville, Florida, man accused of hacking celebrities' online accounts for nude photos and other private information said Friday, "I am very sorry for all of this."

A federal judge ordered Christopher Chaney, 35, to appear in a California courtroom on November 1 to answer charges, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office said.

"What I'm most sorry about is that I had to drag my mom into all of this, and my family and my neighbors and they just want to live their lives," Chaney told reporters. He did not respond to questions.

Chaney is accused of hacking into the accounts of more than 50 celebrities, including movie stars Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis and singer Christina Aguilera.

A grand jury indicted Chaney on nine counts of computer hacking for gain, eight counts of aggravated identify theft, and nine counts of illegal wiretapping. If convicted of all 26 counts, Chaney would face a maximum of 121 years in federal prison, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said.

The aggravated identity theft charge alone carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence, he added.

The suspect's attorney, Christopher Chestnut, said his client "remains very remorseful" and understands the importance of privacy.

Still, Chestnut indicated the potential sentence appeared harsh.

"People who murder kids don't get 120 years in prison," he said.

Earlier this week, Chaney told a reporter that he had became "addicted" to the intrusion and "didn't know how to stop."

"I know what I did was probably one of the worst invasions of privacy someone could experience," Chaney told CNN affiliate WAWS/WTEV in Jacksonville, Florida, on Wednesday.

"And these people don't have privacy to begin with. And I was in that little sliver of privacy they do have."

The FBI's Los Angeles office said he was arrested as part of "Operation Hackerazzi," which looked into computer intrusions targeting individuals associated with the entertainment industry.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Chaney was able to access nude photos of some of the celebrities and some of them were uploaded on the Internet," Birotte said Wednesday.

A recently circulated nude photo of Johansson is part of the investigation, he said.

Chaney allegedly "also took financial information, movie scripts and conversations that the celebrities believed to be private," Birotte told reporters.

In the interview with WAWS/WTEV, Chaney said the hacking "started as curiosity and it turned into just being, you know, addicted to seeing the behind-the-scenes of what's going on with these people you see on the big screen every day."

"It just happened and snowballed," he said, adding that he wishes it had never begun.

Chaney said he felt "almost relieved months ago" when authorities seized his computer because "I didn't know how to stop doing it myself. I wasn't attempting to break into e-mails and get stuff to sell or purposely put it on the Internet. It just -- I don't know."

Authorities allege that Chaney distributed the photos he obtained illegally and offered them to celebrity blog sites. Some of the files, including private photographs, were posted online "as a result of Chaney's alleged activities," authorities said in a statement.

"I've had like six months to think about it," Chaney said, "it eats at me. ... When you're doing it you're not thinking about what's going on with who you're doing it to."

According to the FBI's Los Angeles field office, investigators believe that Chaney used publicly available sources to mine for data about his targets. Once Chaney gained access and control of an e-mail account, "he would obtain private information, such as e-mails and file attachments, according to the indictment," the FBI said in a statement.

Authorities allege that once Chaney hacked into a celebrity's e-mail account, he would use the contact lists to find other celebrities' e-mail accounts. This allowed him to add new victims, authorities charge.

He allegedly set his victims' accounts to automatically forward their e-mails to his account, Birotte said. This allegedly allowed Chaney to continue to receive celebrities' e-mails even after a password was reset, authorities said.

Chaney made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Florida, on Wednesday afternoon, and was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond with the conditions that he can't use any computer or other device with Internet access and he can't have any controlled substances or excessive use of alcohol, said Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles.

CNN's Michael Martinez, Josh Levs, Carey Bodenheimer and John D. Sutter contributed to this report.

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