(CNN) - Sarah Palin, speaking to reporters Friday after testifying against a Tennessee man accused of breaking in to her personal e-mail account, dismissed the defense's argument that the incident was nothing more than "silly prank."
"I don't think an illegal action like this is a prank," Palin said after the courtroom appearance in Knoxville, Tennessee. "Not when you consider how impacting it was on a presidential election. It went beyond a prank."
Palin compared the e-mail hack to an office break-in, with "documents stolen and disclosed to the rest of the world."
Federal prosecutors are presenting their case against University of Tennessee student David Kernell, 22, who is charged with felony identity theft, wire fraud, intentionally accessing Palin's e-mail account in September 2008 without authorization, and obstructing an FBI investigation.
The former Republican vice presidential nominee recalled feeling "uncomfortable" after learning from media reports that her e-mail account was compromised. She was campaigning in Michigan at the time.
"The first screen shot I saw was of a friend who was going through a divorce, and it was a very personal e-mail that she sent me," Palin said. "I felt horrible for her. And throughout this it has been feeling been very bad for the other victims in this. Friends and family who have had to change all their contacts, all their e-mail addresses."
She called the loss of her e-mail account a "big darn deal" because it was her primary means of keeping in touch with her family back in Alaska.
Palin said top officials inside John McCain's presidential campaign immediately became concerned that politically damaging private e-mails would leak. But Palin said she told campaign advisers to "just chill" because there were no "horrible e-mails" that would "end up derailing the McCain campaign."