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David Kernell faces 20 years in jail for hacking Sarah Palin's emails

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May 3, 2010

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David C. Kernell, a college student who used publicly available information to hack into the email account of then vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been found guilty on 2 of the 4 charges filed against him. According to court documents, Palin's emails were hosted at Yahoo at the time of the incident.

Kernell faces up to twenty years in jail on the conviction of obstruction of justice, which was brought on because he deleted evidence from his hard drive. He faces an additional 1-year on the misdemeanor.

He was convicted of felony, obstruction of justice and unauthorized access to a computer. He was then acquitted of wire fraud and the jury hearing the case deadlocked on a charge of identity theft.

U.S. federal prosecutors haven't said whether they will retry Kernell, who is the son of a Democratic Tennessee lawmaker, on that last charge.

Overall, his defense attorney characterized the security breach as a college prank that had no criminal intent, but the Court immediately rejected that motion. Kernell was a student at the University of Tennessee who chronicled the stunt on the 4chan website.

However, federal prosecutors added that it was a serious effort to derail Palin's bid for vice president during the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Palin said "besides the obvious invasion of privacy and security concerns surrounding this issue, many of us are concerned about the integrity of our country’s political elections. America’s elections depend upon fair competition. Violating the law, or simply invading someone’s privacy for political gain, has long been unaccepted by Americans’ sense of fair play."

According to various testimony in the trial, Kernell spent about twenty minutes online to compile information needed to reset the password for Palin's Yahoo Mail account.

At the time, several published reports questioned whether the then-Alaska governor was improperly using it to conduct official state business.

While comparing this security breach to the Watergate burglaries, Palin did agree with the prosecution.

At the end of his testimony, Kernell said that he didn't find anything incriminating and added that he posted a handful of mail messages and photos online.

For now, Kernell is free on bail, and a sentencing hearing has not been set at press time.

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Source: The DoJ.

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