Sextortionist Who Hacked Teenage Girls' Computers Gets 18-Month Prison Punishment
The weeping, angry mother of a crime victim--2013's Miss Teen USA who was electronically stalked and terrorized by a Southern California hacker--called defendant Jared James Abrahams "a sexual predator" and asked that he face the maximum allowable punishment, including lifetime public registration as a sex offender.
"I will never forget the sounds of my daughter's cries for help," Cassidy Wolf's mother told U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna during a sentencing hearing today. "Unthinkable evil entered our home. We lived in terror . . . It went on and on and on and on and on. The terror was just unbelievable."
Abrahams--a soft-spoken, 19-year-old college freshman studying computer science when FBI agents arrested him in 2013--targeted teenage females in California and around the world, placed malware on their computers and secretly activated their webcams to capture them without clothes.
Using surreptitious electronic routes, the Temecula resident also sent messages to his targets, told them he'd recorded their images and, unless they gave him additional naked pictures or video, he would place embarrassing pictures on the Internet, according to the FBI.
Abraham wore a blue blazer, white khakis and a baby face that could pass him for a high school sophomore during the proceedings inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse. With a slight lisp, he read a prepared statement that assured his victims of his "immense sorrow" and regret. "I can only imagine the pain for what I've done to you," he said. "I didn't do it to be mean or hurtful."
Selna interrupted the remarks, saying, "Sir, I have a lot of trouble with that last statement."
Wolf, the pageant beauty and victim, sat in the courtroom but did not address the court.
Abrahams' visibly distraught mother then told the judge that she is "devastated" by her son's crimes, noted his autism and said he'd had difficulty socializing his entire life because he "can't recognize normal social clues." She explained, "Jared is not a monster. He is not a predator. He has the maturity of a 12-year-old boy."
The defendant's father said he "would be beyond furious" if someone in his family been been similarly victimized, but asked Selna to recognize his son's "diminished mental capacity."
"Jared is not a bad person," he said, calling for a punishment of home detention because of a "fear" of what may happen to him in an adult prison. "He is not a sociopath, psychopath or a sexual predator."
Assistant United States Attorney Vibhav Mittal requested a punishment of 21 months in prison.
Selna noted that sentencing is often the toughest part of his job and explained he couldn't mandate a sex offender registration because Mittal hadn't filed child pornography charges in the case.
"I don't believe that autism is an excuse for the conduct he engaged in," said the judge. "He understood what he was doing. I believe he made life hell for the victim and the victim's mother."
Calling his decision "fair and balanced," Selna gave Abrahams a sentence of 18 months to address this case but also to provide a deterrent to others who might in the future plot to commit the same crimes.
The judge hopes the defendant can take advantage of his "potential" after he completes his punishment because he has "a lot of innate ability" with computers.
After the hearing, Mittal said he was satisfied with the sentencing order.
Los Angeles-based defense attorney Alan Eisner, who'd argued that his client used his computer as "an outlet to connect" because of his "severe social isolation," apologized to the victims.
"We don't mean to minimize his conduct whatsoever," he told reporters. "We just want to apply context. He does have signs of mental health limitations."
Selna ordered the now 20-year-old defendant, who is free on bail, to surrender to U.S. Bureau of Prison officials by noon on June 16. When he emerges from custody after serving 85 percent of the sentence, Abrahams must undergo supervised probation for three years. He will have to pay $32 a month for a computer monitoring service. In addition, he is banned from contacting any of his victims.
FBI cyber crime unit agents tracked Abrahams and won his immediate cooperation when they confronted him.