Celeb Photo Hacker Andrew Helton Finally Sentenced for Stealing Nude Photos
by Sierra Burgos
After pleading guilty to hacking email accounts and stealing 161 photos, the judge delivers a federal prison sentence.
Andrew Helton, 29, was sentenced to six months in federal prison Thursday, July 21, after pleading guilty to stealing explicit photos from 13 people. Authorities say that Helton’s crime involved sending victims private emails that appeared to be from Apple or Google, in a phishing technique. These emails requested fake verification from the victims, which in turn provided Helton with their personal usernames and passwords. Because it was a simple phishing scam and not technologically advanced, Helton’s lawyer tried to argue that the celeb hacker should not recieve prison time.
On the flip side, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Christensen urged Judge John A. Kronstadt to give Helton at least a year in prison, if not more, for his crimes: “For more than two years, defendant Andrew Helton targeted, baited, and hooked unsuspecting victims with his phishing e-mails,” she wrote. “He targeted strangers, acquaintances, and celebrities alike. He trolled through their private e-mail accounts, accessing the most private of communications. He systematically pilfered nude and intimate images of his victims and stored them in his own computer for personal use.”
The celeb phone hacker, who had lengthy remarks in court, admitted that his mental issues “took over [his] life.”
“Those who read about my case probably imagine me in a room hatching fiendish plots to take advantage of people,” Helton wrote in a letter to the Judge. “The truth is, when this was going on, it was usually filled with tears and suffering.”
Judge Kronstadt said he hoped the short prison sentence would allow Helton to move forward with his life. “I regard this as part of a new beginning,” Kronstadt said.
According to prosecutors, the explicit photos Helton stole have not been leaked, but actress Jennifer Lawrence was also the victim of another cyber-theft incident dubbed “Celebgate,” that happened in 2014, a year after Helton was arrested. In that incident, intimate photos of several celebrities, including Lawrence and singer Ariana Grande, were leaked online. Two arrests have been made in that case: 28-year-old Chicago resident Edward Majerczyk plead guilty to hacking into the Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts of more than 300 people and now faces up to five years in prison, and in March, Ryan Collins, 36, of Pennsylvania plead guilty to hacking into more than 100 private accounts and stealing nude images and videos.
When “Celebgate” broke, Lawrence garnered much of the surrounding media attention, simply because she refused to take any blame for having the photos stolen, fighting back against critics who said she shouldn’t have taken the provocative pics or had them on her photo. In a very candid interview with Vanity Fair after the incident, Lawrence made her stance clear, saying, “It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime. It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting,” she said. “Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetuating a sexual offense. You should cower with shame.”
Take that, assholes.