Jacksonville’s ‘Hackerazzi’ Shows Complexities in Cyber Crime Charges

Jacksonville recently had the dubious distinction to being the home of one of the country’s most infamous defendants when accused hacker Christopher Chaney was arrested and charged with breaking into the e-mail accounts of several celebrities and posting nude photos of some.

But what should be noted is that it took the FBI an entire year to make an arrest and by the information being published, it took Chaney a large amount time to allegedly commit the crimes for which he is charged.
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He faces 26 counts in a federal court in Los Angeles related to “Operation Hackerazzi,” in which the FBI alleges 50 celebrities fell victim to Chaney’s cyber crimes in Jacksonville. With all the media attention — turning this 35-year-old average citizen into a celebrity himself — Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys wonder if Chaney can get a fair trial.

In any high-profile criminal case, the court of public opinion can sometimes be as important as the criminal court. Not literally, of course, because only a trial can determine true guilt or innocence (as Casey Anthony would tell you), but every person who watches TV, reads the newspaper or looks at online articles about a defendant is a prospective juror.

That means they can be influenced by what is reported by the news media or blog writers throughout the world. And that means that even in a highly complex case such as this one, jurors may well have already made up their minds without hearing any evidence.

In Chaney’s case, he is accused of monitoring celebrity’s Twitter accounts, public comments and other social media to gain access to their e-mail addresses. There, he found photos, including nude photos of actress Scarlett Johansson, personal conversations about upcoming projects and other information that he posted online for all to see, according to prosecutors.

He allegedly mined the web for data to use in guessing what the passwords to their accounts might be. And in what may seal his fate, he granted several news media interviews during which he confessed to the activity, saying he did it for the thrill as kind of an obsession.

Cyber crime is a large part of our society, given that so many activities are conducted online. Banking, shopping and everyday operations use computer networks that are susceptible to breaches. Finding out who commit these computer crimes isn’t as easy as following an easy to follow paper trail.

Computer networks are extremely complicated and require highly trained people to accurately figure out a person responsible for the actions. And many times, investigators get it wrong. Or they are so overzealous in their pursuit, they violate a person’s rights with an inaccurate search warrant request.

Cyber crime is a big problem, but it must be fought diligently yet lawfully. Getting it right is more important than getting a person in custody. And a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer should be called in to ensure a defendant’s rights are upheld every step of the way.


The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for more than a decade and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

More Blog Entries:

Jacksonville Computer Crimes Add to Florida’s No. 2 Ranking Nationwide: July 10, 2011
Additional Resources:

Hollywood Hacker: How to Avoid the Online Mistakes of the Stars, by Andre Brooks, First Coast News