After pleading guilty to nine different counts of hacking into celebrities’ phones, Christopher Chaney is facing 71 months in jail and a total of $150,446.81 in restitution to the three celebrities whose pictures he shared online. If you’re thinking that that sounds like a very specific number, then… well, yes: It is.
The Hollywood Reporter had the news that prosecutors recommended to the judge that Chaney pay $76,767.35 to The Secret Life of the American Teenager actress Renee Olstead, $66,179.46 to The Avengers‘ Scarlett Johansson and $7,500 to singer and The Voice judge Christina Aguilera in restitution for his crimes, and had a similar reaction when it came to considering those amounts. Namely, why those amounts? Is it simply that Christina Aguilera nudes are that much less valuable than those of Scarlett Johansson or Renee Olstead?
Well, kind of, according to attorney Ellyn Garofalo. “You don’t look at it and say here’s the value [of those photos],” she explained. “What restitution is, is the loss or the intended loss. If I rob $100 from a bank, I have to pay $100 back. What must have have happened here is that [Chaney] sold the photographs. The restitution amount is the amount he sold or contracted to sell.”
What complicates matters here, however, is that Chaney denies having sold the images to anyone. Even if he’s lying – and there’s no reason for him to do so, considering that he pleaded guilty to the other charges and hasn’t exactly been unforthcoming about what he did do – that would still mean that there was no dollar figure for prosecutors to use as a guide for restitution claims. So what else could be at play in this calculation?
One fascinating alternative, according to Garofalo, is that the figures come from the celebrities themselves and relate to the cost they faced to ensure that the pics weren’t spread any further around the Internet than they had been already. There’s nothing on record to back up this theory, but it is an arresting one; is it that Christina Aguilera just got a better deal in image removal than the two actresses, or that she spent less time, money and effort in trying to take the pictures offline (I’d suggest Googling “Christina Aguilera leaked phone pics” to find out, but, really: That would be a terrible idea)?
Ultimately, though, the money isn’t that important according to the prosecutors in the case. In the recommendation to the court, they write that “while an upward departure [of financial restitution] might be appropriate … given the risk of substantial loss beyond the loss determined … as more of defendant’s victims report losses or more victims’ photographs get posted to the Internet, the government requests that the court account for this factor by imposing a high-end sentence.” In other words, the money isn’t nearly as good a deterrent as actually doing time. Bear that in mind, future phone hackers who thought that a big bank balance would keep them out of trouble.