A 29-year-old Illinois man pleaded guilty to hacking the iCloud accounts of high-profile female celebrities and leaking their nude photos on the Internet.
Edward Majerczyk was charged with one felony count of unauthorised access to a protected computer to obtain information, according to the Chicago Tribune. He pleaded guilty in federal court in Chicago on Tuesday.
Majerczyk’s victims were not named in the court documents, but the hack affected Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, model Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, and US soccer player Hope Solo. Many of the actresses have publicly addressed the dissemination of their nude photos.
The defendant told the judge that he targeted the female celebrities and looked for “sensitive images” to download. His lawyer said there was no evidence “of any effort by [Majerczyk] to sell or disseminate” such images. Majerczyk admitted that it was for his own “personal satisfaction and enjoyment”.
The so-called “Celebgate” leak revealed more than 500 photos accessed through the celebrities’ iCloud accounts. Many of the images, which contained nudity, were initially posted to the 4chan forum, and made their way to Reddit and Imgur.
Investigators said that Lawrence was “visibly shaken” by the hack.
“She became very distraught and I had to stop the interview at one point because of her emotional reaction to the information being discussed,” an FBI agent said in court filings. “[Lawrence] stated she was having an anxiety attack.”
Lawrence called the leak a “sex crime” in a 2014 interview with Vanity Fair.
“I was just so afraid. I didn’t know how this would affect my career,” she said. “Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this. It does not mean that it comes with the territory.”
Majerczyk’s sentencing is scheduled for 10 January.