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'Hackerazzi' pleads not guilty, finds bail raised for new cyberstalking accusations

By Michael Martinez and Gregg Canes
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Wed November 2, 2011
A recently circulated nude photo of Scarlett Johansson is part of the federal investigation, prosecutors said.
A recently circulated nude photo of Scarlett Johansson is part of the federal investigation, prosecutors said.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Johansson says she is not ashamed of the nude photo
  • Christopher Chaney, 35, pleads not guilty at arraignment
  • He is accused of hacking into e-mail of celebs including Scarlett Johansson
  • Chaney has said he was "addicted" to hacking celebrities' e-mail accounts

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A 35-year-old Florida man accused of being a "hackerazzi" pleaded not guilty Tuesday in federal court to charges of hacking into celebrities' e-mail accounts.

Christopher Chaney of Jacksonville, Florida, is accused of hacking into e-mail accounts and devices belong to more than 50 people, including entertainers Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera, Mila Kunis, Simone Harouche and Renee Olstead, prosecutors said.

During Tuesday's arraignment in Los Angeles, the federal judge increased Chaney's bail to $110,000 from $10,000 in the wake of three new accusations of cyberstalking -- including one celebrity victim who wasn't identified and was allegedly cyberstalked after authorities seized Chaney's computer earlier this year. Two other victims, including a 13-year-old, have told authorities that they were cyberstalked before the computer seizure, prosecutors said.

Chaney was expected to post bail after his mother indicated she would put up the family home as collateral. If he posts bail, Chaney will be subject to electronic monitoring and can't possess any computers, the judge said.

The judge set a December 27 trial date.

Chaney allegedly accessed nude photos of some of the celebrities during the hacking, and a recently circulated nude photo of Johansson is part of the federal investigation, prosecutors said.

Chaney also allegedly used public sources to mine data about his victims, which included both males and females, all associated with the entertainment industry, authorities said.

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.

Johansson told Vanity Fair magazine she is not ashamed of the photo.

"I know my best angles," she said in an article published Tuesday. "They were sent to my husband. ... There's nothing wrong with that."

Johansson is now divorced from her husband at the time, Ryan Reynolds.

Chaney has been indicted on nine counts of computer hacking for gain, eight counts of aggravated identify theft and nine counts of illegal wiretapping, prosecutors said.

If convicted of the 26 counts, Chaney would face a maximum of 121 years in federal prison, prosecutors said. The aggravated identity theft charge alone carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence, prosecutors added.

Last month, Chaney said he became "addicted" to the intrusion and "didn't know how to stop."

"I deeply apologize. 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, last month.

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

In the interview, 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 photos of the celebrities that he obtained illegally and offered them to various celebrity blog sites, but he didn't seek money in exchange.

Some of the illegally obtained files, including private photographs, were ultimately 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."

CNN's Carey Bodenheimer contributed to this report.

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