MANHATTAN (CN) — Handing a five-year sentence to the Bahamanian man who hacked celebrity sex tapes, a 20th Century Fox script and unreleased music tracks, a federal judge showed no patience for the defendant’s jailhouse boast that he can still “shake up Hollywood.”
“It’s important that the law muscularly respond to the modern-day pirates like you,” U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmeyer told Alonzo Knowles at a sentencing hearing Tuesday.
The guidelines range in the plea agreement had called for a prison sentence of no more than three years, but Knowles drew the court’s ire after authorities caught wind of his prison communications.
“He clearly, as evidenced from his communications, hasn’t learned his lesson,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristy Greenberg told the court.
Knowles had been awaiting sentencing in Metropolitan Detention Center when he wrote about the silver lining in serving time, saying he could cash in on a book with “juicy” material “that ain’t public.”
“I think it’s worth the extra year to do it,” wrote Knowles, who pleaded guilty in May to criminal copyright infringement and identity theft.
U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmeyer found an old adage relevant to the incident.
“It is said that character is what a person does when no one is watching,” said Engelmeyer.
The defense team failed to cast Knowles’ words as nothing more than the bluster of a young man.
“God help us if we take as true everything a 24-year-old says,” said Clay Kaminsky, with the Federal Defenders of New York.
Knowles’ original plea agreement had whittled down his targeting of 130 celebrities to a reckoning over "25 unpublished television and movie scripts in his Dropbox account.”
Knowles, a native of Bermuda, urged the judge to take a broader view of his life, as a father to a newborn son and the doting child of a recent widower.
“Deep down inside, I know this is not who I am,” Knowles said in a prepared statement.
Kaminsky told the court that his client’s family has had an especially hard time in Knowles’ absence after Hurricane Matthew ravaged their hometown of Freeport, Bermuda in October.
Judge Engelmeyer showed greater sympathy, however, for those whose information Knowles stole.
The court had kept a lid on the identities of Hollywood players entangled in Knowles’ activities, but those whose identities surfaced on the road to sentencing include 20th Century Fox’s vice president of intellectual property and singer-songwriter-actress Naturi Naughton.
Describing her fear of sexually explicit images going public, one anonymous victim wrote: “That’s not only criminal, but cruel.”
Fox’s executive said dissemination of the stolen script could have caused the company “tremendous harm.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara applauded the five-year sentence.
“For his frightful violation of privacy, Knowles has been sentenced to a substantial term of imprisonment,” Bharara said in a statement.
Knowles can appeal any sentence higher than the agreed-upon guideline range. His attorney declined to say whether they would do so.
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