DETROIT -- A young Republican activist from Great Neck has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for stalking and extortion after hacking into online accounts of 15 women and finding nude photos of them.
U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani agreed that Adam Savader, 22, suffers from mental health problems and was devastated after working on the unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich.
"But there's nothing in the reports from psychologists that you don't know right from wrong," the judge said Wednesday. "You can't use mental illness as an excuse as long as you know right from wrong." The sentence matched the recommendation of prosecutors.
Many victims were college students in Michigan, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere who knew Savader from school or working in politics. Savader found nude photos while hacking into online files and threatened to release them to relatives unless the women sent more pictures to him. No pictures, however, were released.
Savader used an alias while sending text messages to the women over a Google phone service in 2012 and 2013.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mollie O'Rourke said he was a "virtual peeping Tom" who waged a "campaign of emotional terror." In one text message, Savader wrote: "Let's make this simple . . . You have until noon. I am not bluffing. Don't be stupid. Once I send pics of you they cannot be unsent."
One of Savader's victims spoke in court. She was bewildered by the messages -- "I do not have any enemies" -- and couldn't determine the identity of the sender. At one point, she said she flew home to New York to seek help from her family and missed college exams.
"Words and threats change people's lives," she told the judge.
Savader apologized and said he was "horrified" by his crimes. He quoted President Bill Clinton, who in 1998 apologized for an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
"I'm trying to make it right," Savader said.
Elana Savader begged the judge to keep her son out of prison. Battani acknowledged the sentence was a difficult decision. She described Savader as a "wonderful young man with demons" but said his crimes were "heinous." Battani said she didn't know why young women would store nude photos of themselves online but quickly added that it wasn't illegal.
Adam Savader had recently enrolled at Farmingdale State College. A college spokesman said he has been suspended.