Ex-teacher sentenced to 3 years in 'celebgate' hacking case

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A former Virginia high school teacher was sentenced Friday to nearly three years in prison for hacking into private digital accounts of celebrities and others.

Christopher Brannan was the fifth person charged in the 2014 “celebgate” scandal in which hackers obtained nude photographs and other private information from more than 200 people. Actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are among the celebrities who’ve said they were victims.

Prosecutors alleged in court documents that Brannan hacked email accounts by answering security questions he could easily research by reviewing victims’ Facebook accounts. They said he also gained access to private accounts by using phishing email accounts designed to look like security accounts from Apple. Brannan then accessed the victim’s email accounts and searched for personal information, including nude photographs.

Brannan, 31, pleaded guilty in October to aggravated identity theft and unauthorized access to a protected computer.

He apologized Friday before being sentenced to 34 months in prison. Brannan said he suffered from anxiety and depression, and became addicted to pornography.

Trending:
Reporter Who Uncovered Secret Clinton-Lynch Tarmac Meeting Found Dead

“I let addiction take control of me and I deeply regret that,” he said.

Brannan was a special education teacher at Lee-Davis High School in Mechanicsville from 2013 to 2015. Court documents say he admitted hacking or trying to hack accounts of current and former teachers and students at the high school.

Under a plea agreement, both prosecutors and Brannan’s lawyer recommended the 34-month sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Aber told U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson that the volume of intrusions was enormous.

“It’s truly an immense invasion of privacy,” she said.

Brannan’s lawyer, Abraham Del Rio III, told Hudson that Brannan coped with anxiety and depression by viewing online pornography.

After hearing from Del Rio, Hudson told Brannan he was still “a little bit perplexed” about why someone with a good job who seemed to be on a good path in life would hack into private accounts.

“These are questions that I’ve spent a lot of time asking myself,” Brannan said.

Brannan was ordered to begin serving his sentence April 1.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →



We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




Conversation