(Reuters) - The man charged with hacking the private e-mail accounts of Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera and other celebrities apologized on Thursday, saying he became addicted to prying into their affairs.
But Christopher Chaney, 35, said he never intended to sell or release the information, which included nude photos that later made their way to the Internet.
“It started as curiosity and it turned into just being addicted to seeing behind the scenes of what was going on with these people you see on the big screen every day,” Chaney told Fox television affiliate WAWS in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I was almost relieved months ago when they came in and took my computer...because I didn’t know how to stop,” he said.
Chaney was charged on Wednesday with 26 counts of cyber-related crimes against Hollywood celebrities after an 11-month FBI probe dubbed “Operation Hackerazzi.”
Victims included “Iron Man 2” star Johansson, whose topless photo was leaked online in September, and “Black Swan” actress Mila Kunis, who was seen in a bubble bath.
Chaney said he couldn’t remember who or when he started hacking but said his activities just “snowballed”.
“I deeply apologize,” he said. “I know what I did was probably one of the worst invasions of privacy someone could experience. I am not trying to escape what I did.”
Chaney said he had no intention of selling the photos and information or releasing it to others, saying he had been approached by a third party but had given them nothing.
“I wasn’t attempting to break into e-mails and get stuff to sell or purposefully put on the Internet...I never wanted to sell or release any images,” he said in the interview.
Federal officials said on Wednesday that they had no information on whether Chaney profited from the hacking, but said the investigation, which identified more than 50 victims, remained open and others could be implicated.
Chaney faces up to 121 years in jail if convicted on all counts.
Investigators said there is no connection between Chaney and a hacking scandal involving one of the London newspapers owned by media giant News Corp.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte