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Ryan Collins, a 36-year-old from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, will plead guilty in the theft of female celebrities’ nude photos.
Collins is charged with felony computer hacking and unauthorized access of a protected computer, which are illegal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
From November 2012 to September 2014, Collins used a phishing scheme to collect personal account information. Collins sent emails imitating the help desks at Apple or Google and collected the victims’ usernames and passwords. From there, he accessed at least 72 email accounts and 50 iCloud accounts, where he stole personal information and photos.
The case drew wide attention in 2014 after nude photos of celebrities, including Lea Michele and Jennifer Lawrence, appeared on Reddit, 4chan and other online forums.
The maximum sentence for the charges is five years, but prosecutors have recommended he serve 18 months, according to the District Attorney’s office for the region covering Los Angeles.
“By illegally accessing intimate details of his victims’ personal lives, Mr. Collins violated their privacy and left many to contend with lasting emotional distress, embarrassment and feelings of insecurity,” David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in Charge for the FBI division in Los Angeles, said in a statement.
After the photos appeared online, Lawrence spoke out against media coverage that painted the crime as a “leak” or a “scandal.”
“It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime,” Lawrence told Vanity Fair in 2014. “It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change.”
The investigation into who released the photos online is still ongoing, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s office, nonconsensual pornography or “revenge porn.”
After the photos Collins collected appeared online, University of Miami law professor and vice president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative Mary Anne Franks called for more comprehensive laws recognizing revenge porn as a form of sex abuse.
Corinne is the Senior Multimedia Web Editor for NewsHour Weekend. She serves on the advisory board for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.
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