Palin e-mail hacker sentenced to year in custody

Nov 12, 2010 By BILL POOVEY , Associated Press
David Kernell, right front, walks to the Federal Courthouse with his mother, Lt. Col. Lillian Landrigan, behind, and attorney's Wade Davies, left front, and Anne Passino Friday, Nov. 12, 2010 in Knoxville, Tenn. Kernell was a University of Tennessee student majoring in economics when prosecutors say he hacked into the Yahoo! e-mail account Palin sometimes used for state business. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

(AP) -- A former University of Tennessee student who hacked into Sarah Palin's e-mail during the 2008 presidential campaign was sentenced Friday to a year and a day, with the judge recommending a halfway house instead of prison.

U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Phillips also said David Kernell, 22, should get mental health treatment, based on defense comments Friday that he has had conditions including depression since he was 11.

Kernell hugged family members and friends after hearing the sentence. He declined comment as they left the courthouse with his attorney.

He was an economics major when he deduced the answers to security questions and read e-mail in Palin's private Yahoo account.

The former Alaska governor and her daughter Bristol testified at the trial in late April that the hacking, followed by Kernell's online bragging and providing the password and Palin family telephone numbers to others, caused them emotional hardship. Palin previously declined comment about Kernell's sentence and said it should be up to the judge.

The prosecutors' pre-sentence filings said Kernell, a Democratic legislator's son, had posted online that he found "nothing that would derail her campaign as I had hoped, all I saw was personal stuff, some clerical stuff from when she was governor ... And pictures of her family ... I read everything, every little Blackberry confirmation ... all the pictures, and there was nothing..."

The judge rejected a recommendation by prosecutors that Kernell be sent to prison for 18 months.

Kernell will not start the sentence until the Bureau of Prisons decides the location of his confinement, probably in about 45 days.

"They usually take the recommendation but they are not required to," the judge said.

Kernell, smiling at times after the sentence was announced, spoke during the hearing and apologized.

"I am not going to make any kind of excuses," he said. "I'd like to apologize to the Palin family."

Kernell said that "for the rest of my life I am going to be ashamed, feel guilty for what I have done."

Kernell was convicted of unauthorized access to a protected computer and destroying records to impede a federal investigation. Jurors acquitted him of wire fraud and deadlocked on an identity theft charge.

Records show the maximum possible penalty for destroying or concealing records to impede an investigation is 20 years and applying the guidelines to Kernell, the penalty range was between 15 months and 21 months.

Palin did not attend the sentencing and her attorney did not immediately answer an e-mail request for comment about the sentencing Friday.

A statement on Palin's' Facebook page after the trial compared the case to the 1972 Watergate break-in at Democratic headquarters that eventually led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

"As Watergate taught us, we rightfully reject illegally breaking into candidates' private communications for political intrigue in an attempt to derail an election," the Facebook posting said.

Phillips said during the hearing that the sentence was not based on any victim's notoriety.

"The importance of privacy, regardless of the individual, needs to be protected," he said.

The judge said a "firm but not a reactionary sentence is required in this case."

Explore further: Twitpic to stay alive with new owner

3 /5 (3 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hacker gets 7 years for stealing credit card data

Mar 30, 2010

(AP) -- A federal judge in Boston has sentenced a Florida man to seven years in prison for playing a key role in one of the largest theft of credit and debit card numbers in U.S. history.

Big-time hacker from Miami sentenced in 3rd case

Mar 26, 2010

(AP) -- For the second time in as many days, a computer hacker accused of one of the largest-ever thefts of credit and debit card numbers stood before a federal judge and apologized for his actions.

Judge rules in Palin e-mail case

Aug 12, 2009

(AP) -- A judge ruled Wednesday that the Alaska governor's office can use private e-mail accounts to conduct state business, as former Gov. Sarah Palin sometimes did.

Recommended for you

Facebook dressed down over 'real names' policy

Sep 17, 2014

Facebook says it temporarily restored hundreds of deleted profiles of self-described drag queens and others, but declined to change a policy requiring account holders to use their real names rather than drag names such as ...

Yelp to pay US fine for child privacy violation

Sep 17, 2014

Online ratings operator Yelp agreed to pay $450,000 to settle US charges that it illegally collected data on children, in violation of privacy laws, officials said Wednesday.

User comments : 0