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Image: Christopher Chaney
Reed Saxon  /  AP
Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Fla., leaves federal court in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
By
updated 11/2/2011 8:57:55 PM ET 2011-11-03T00:57:55

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.

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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.

Story: Scarlett Johansson explains her nude photos

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."

Chaney said he managed to hack into Johansson's email account to send one of her acquaintances an email containing a nude photo of her in exchange for a photo, authorities said.

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.

Chaney has apologized for his actions. His attorney, Christopher Chestnut, told AP that his client doesn't want the case to drag on, but the resolution has to be within reason.

"I think he has a crystal clear view of what is at stake," Chestnut said during Tuesday's hearing.

The warrant also said Chaney may have stalked a Connecticut woman online for the past 12 years. The document contends there is probable cause that Chaney violated federal charges of stalking and unauthorized access to a computer.

Federal prosecutors also said a second woman has stepped forward and made similar accusations that Chaney stalked her online. They declined to comment further.

Chaney told the AP the new allegations are completely false.

"I can't accept responsibility for things I didn't do," Chaney said.

Chestnut said the new allegations amount to nothing more than a publicity stunt designed to damage his client's reputation.

"The amount of time, money and energy the authorities have spent pursuing a man who didn't sell anything or profit in any way from this alleged activity is truly remarkable, given everything we are going through in this country," Chestnut said.

No other charges have been filed against Chaney, who has a 1998 mail fraud conviction in Florida. He was sentenced to four years' probation.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: ‘Hackerazzi’ man: ‘I feel terrible for everything’

  1. Transcript of: ‘Hackerazzi’ man: ‘I feel terrible for everything’

    ANN CURRY, co-host: But we begin this half-hour with the latest on the man accused of hikinginto the computers and cell phones of high-profile celebrities. NBC 's Lilia Luciano talked to the suspect in his hometown of Jacksonville , Florida . And Lilia now joins us. Lilia , good morning.

    LILIA LUCIANO reporting: Good morning to you, Ann. Christopher Chaney says he's not a hackerazzi, he's neither a hacker nor a paparazzi, as he's been labeled. But he is the one who authorities say has been exposing the lives of celebrities online. So, in order to understand who is this man, we spoke with him to get his side of the story.

    Mr. CHRISTOPHER CHANEY: Obviously, it's something nobody wants to experience.

    LUCIANO: Thirty-five -year-old Christopher Chaney says he's just a normal guy who didn't mean any harm. But investigators disagree. They say he hacked into email accounts and cell phones of more than 50 people, including celebrities like Scarlett Johansson , Christina Aguilera , Mila Kunis , and Renee Olstead , exposing their deepest secrets online. In some cases, investigators say, he posted nude photos of celebrities for the world to see. Have you thought about the people? People like Scarlett Johansson ?

    Mr. CHANEY: I do feel terrible for everything, you know, that's going on -- that they may be going through or maybe have had to experience because of all this.

    LUCIANO: Chaney says what pains him the most is letting his family down, especially his mom. He's now living with her under a court order until his trial begins in California .

    Ms. CHANEY: It's going to be hard. You know, I don't want to let him go.

    LUCIANO: In an interview last week, Chaney admitted to a deep fascination with celebrities, saying once he got a look into their private lives, he couldn't stop. But it all started to crumble in February, when FBI marshals startled Chaney in the middle of the night .

    Mr. CHANEY: It was -- it was something out of a movie because there were guns drawn. I mean, there were -- there were laser sights, you know, pointed at me. I never in my life would have thought I would have seen something like that.

    LUCIANO: The FBI took his computer as part of the investigation. Nine months later they came back for him.

    Offscreen Voice: I mean, you're worried about your family?

    LUCIANO: Chaney is now charged in a 26-count federal indictment, and he's the one in the spotlight. Now that you've seen it, how has your perception changed in terms of those celebrities?

    Mr. CHANEY: I certainly have a respect for what they have to deal with on a daily basis. It is -- it is -- I don't know anyone can deal with it daily.

    LUCIANO: A hundred and twenty-one years is the maximum you could potentially get given all the charges against you, Chris . How does that sound to you? A hundred and twenty-one years.

    Mr. CHANEY: It's terrifying. It's kept me awake at night. It's scary.

    LUCIANO: Chaney has not yet entered a plea. His attorney says guilt or innocence has not been established, so they do not want to address the charges. He has a court appearance on November 1st in Los Angeles . And getting there will be the first time he ever sets foot on an airplane. Ann :

    CURRY: All right. Lilia Luciano , thank you so much .

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