'Hackerazzi' Suspect Should Keep Quiet in Jacksonville Cyber Crime Case

October 17, 2011

The hottest news out of Jacksonville in a long time is the arrest of 35-year-old Christopher Chaney in connection with a computer hacking scandal that resulted in nude photos of celebrities being sent across the Internet.

The Florida Times-Union reports that Chaney will appear in court in Los Angeles on Nov. 1 to face charges as part of a 26-count indictment alleging he broke into celebrity e-mail accounts and found personal information, including photos.
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But the biggest news from a criminal defense standpoint is that Chaney has, unfortunately, granted interviews to the media, during which he has apologized, which is something that definitely will be used against him.

While it may feel like a soul-cleansing act to tell the world he's sorry, it will only add more evidence for federal prosecutors to use in Los Angeles, the paparazzi capital of the world. With the world watching this case, they will use as much evidence as they can in working to convict this man.

Whether talking about computer-related cyber theft in Jacksonville, robbery, assault or any other crime, it is highly ill-advised to speak to anyone, let alone the media, before trial.

As an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer will tell you, the battle in the public is sometimes as important as the battle in the courtroom. What people read in the newspaper, see on television or watch online influences their opinion. And every person who is exposed to this case is a potential juror.

Therefore, there may be times where it is advantageous to speak with the media in an attempt to sway people into seeing both sides of the story, but that requires smart thinking and a strong strategy for how to handle it. Allowing a defendant to go out and tell the world he's sorry implies guilt and it could be used at trial or in sentencing.

The case boils down to a 35-year-old man who allegedly got into the computer accounts of actresses Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis along with singer Christina Aguilera. Nude photos of Johansson, along with personal information of all three were posted online.

The federal indictment against Chaney alleges that he monitored popular celebrity social networking sites, such as Twitter to be able to come up with the passwords to these accounts. Once accessed, he was able to find persona information, such as conversations about roles in films, photos and contact information.

Already facing a steep public relations battle, Chaney made it worse by granting interviews. In them, he told the media that he apologizes, that it "eats at" him and that he worries for his mother's safety. He must now worry that prosecutors in Los Angeles will use those words, along with any statements he may have made to investigators, in order to send him to prison for years or decades.

Consult with your attorney before you say anything -- either to police, a neighbor, cellmate or the media --because there's a reason you are told it "can and will be used against you in a court of law." Because it will.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call Mussallem and Associate, PA at 904-365-5200 for a free consultation.

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