October 8th, 2008
10:02 AM ET
14 years ago

Son of Democratic state lawmaker indicted in Palin hacking probe

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/08/art.palinsign1008.ap.jpg caption="The son of a Democratic state legislator in Tennessee has been indicted for allegedly hacking an e-mail belonging to Gov. Sarah Palin."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A federal grand jury in Knoxville, Tennessee, has indicted the son of a Democratic state legislator for allegedly hacking into a personal e-mail account belonging to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

David Kernell, 20, son of Memphis Democrat Mike Kernell, has turned himself into federal authorities for arrest and will be arraigned Wednesday morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley, the Department of Justice said.

Kernell was indicted on Tuesday by the grand jury on a single count of "intentionally accessing without authorization" the e-mail account of the Alaskan governor, the DOJ said. The indictment was unsealed on Wednesday.

Some of the contents of Palin's e-mail account were displayed briefly last month on the Internet. Although the displayed messages did not contain significant political disclosures, the McCain-Palin campaign issued a statement calling the incident "a shocking invasion of the governor's privacy and a violation of law."

FBI agents searched David Kernell's Knoxville home over the September 20-21 weekend, federal law enforcement sources told CNN.

According to the indictment, Kernell was allegedly able to access Palin's e-mail by resetting the password. He then allegedly read the contents and made screenshots of the e-mail directory and other personal information, the indictment states.

"The personal information included, and was not limited to, other e-mail addresses of family members, pictures of family members, at least one cell phone number of a family member, the dates of birth of Governor Palin and another family member, and Governor Palin's address book," the indictment said.

The screenshots were posted to a public Web site, and Kernell is alleged to have also posted the newly created password to that site allowing others to access Palin's e-mail account, it said.

While the indictment is merely an allegation, the charge carries a maximum five-year prison term, a $250,000 fine and a three year term of supervised release upon conviction, according to the DOJ.

A trial date has not been set.

Filed under: Sarah Palin
soundoff (182 Responses)
  1. Greg, NY

    Can't wait to see how people will stretch to blame this on Obama...

    "That One" '08

    October 8, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  2. mitch

    she shouldnt be doing state business on yahoo.

    October 8, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  3. KJL

    I agree that Kernell's acts were criminal, but Palin's use of this particular account for government business, especially with such lax security measures, was ridiculous.

    October 8, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  4. Joe

    Too bad no one hacked into Ayers and Obamas email.

    October 8, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  5. Hispanic for Obama

    Poor kid...going to jail over Palin. Chances are they reach a plea agreement.

    Still this shows the stupidity an lack of judgment by Sarah Palin to use Yahoo! for government business. Then again we know she's using it to hide some of her business.

    October 8, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  6. You Obamaphiles...

    You've been delusional on this site about republicans being evil and democrats being angels... this is just the latest example of how you guys are even worse.

    McCain/Palin '08!

    October 8, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  7. Matt--Nebraska


    CNN actually pointed out he was a kid of a democrat. Most 'news' sources didn't point out how the Obama culture of corruption is attempting to influence this election.

    October 8, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  8. Bob (Illinois)

    That was a dumb stunt!

    October 8, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  9. Sandy

    As a democrat he went too far. At the age of 20 he should have known better.

    Oh, well- I hope on Friday we will be allowed to post comments when the Troopergate findings come out, instead of a permalink.

    October 8, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  10. Tommy

    If her writing is anything like her speaking, then they are useless anyway.

    October 8, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  11. Tim

    Full disclosure: I am a democrat, but I think the possible sentence for this charge is a bit harsh. The guy hacked into the personal email account of the governor, not her official government email. From a national security standpoint, I could understand such a stiff sentence if the allegation was of hacking into a government email account. But this was a personal account. Sure, it was the account of the governor, but would the same standard apply if it was someone else? In other words, if you hacked into the account of an ex, do you think a five year prison sentence is reasonable?

    Just my two cents.

    October 8, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  12. N.S of Huntsville, Al

    He was wrong to do that, not just to Pailn but anyone. Pailn on the other hand is tupid enough to have a yahoo account that was so easy to brake into. And she used her personal account for governmental purposes. JUDGEMENT thats a word that should never come out of Pailns mouth or McCain, they are two eratic nuts who continue to use and show terrible judgement. There a lost cause.

    But CNN who cares? The Economy is the issue not a 20 year old YOUNG MAN who was clever enough to get in dumb Pailns yahoo account. Hey if she is that dumb she might tell all USA's secerts the safe thing to do is not vote for Pailn/McCain ticket and you won't have to worry about all Pailns dumb blunders.

    October 8, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  13. Shawn - Ga

    How long before he rolls on Obama?

    October 8, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  14. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    This one is for:

    That One '08

    October 8, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  15. jfs Memhis, Tn

    Now lets see how Alaska handles their Govenors firing practices. That's the REAL story.

    October 8, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  16. Greg in Colorado

    I am in agreement with Sen. Biden. I find it absolutely appauling that sarah palin would allow her audiences to chant "kill him' and terrorist while they are at a rally. How disturbing!!!! How disrespectful!!! I can personally say that I hate sarah palin for all that she is doing to people and to think that there are people that will follow her. For all of you McCan't people out there.. aren't your somewhat distrub by this? Or are you in total support because you don't know a sandpit from a sandbox. Come on people we are better then this!!! Get real!! Who cares about her emails!!! Probably pictures of her last hunt outting.

    Obama/Biden 08/12

    October 8, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  17. McHoover Would Destroy What's Left of America

    If she wasn't an irresponsible dimwit this kid wouldn't have had an email to hack into.

    Anyone who thinks this woman, a Political Sociopath, has the judgement to be President needs to engage in some logical thought prior to voting.

    October 8, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  18. Susan

    How terrible.

    October 8, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |

    Yo' Dave,

    Do what the newly crowned Miss Alaskan Anal Sphcinter 2008 does and ignore all those suppoena thingys form them thar revenewers!

    If moose flatulence works for her, it should work for you.

    October 8, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  20. morris graham

    Can we be so fast to get the bad guys in troopergate?

    October 8, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  21. rm


    It's "That one" not "The one". Get grandpa's quote correct next time.

    October 8, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  22. John, Austin, Texas

    That's really upsetting. I'm shocked as an American and member of the Human Race. Appalled. Completely disgusted. So outraged that they broke into her email account. I mean, the economy is collapsing, two wars, housing crisis, and Sarah Palin has nothing important in her email account? Nothing from McCain- oh wait, he doesn't know how to use a computer.

    Palin- stop saying the word "there" after every second. It get's annoying there.

    October 8, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  23. Shawn - Ga

    Why do people keep saying she was trying to hide somehting using a Yahoo account? She was still e-mailing people in the Alaska goverment to their .gov addresses. So the e-mails were still logged and all the normal "paper trail" was in place.

    October 8, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  24. Candy West Virginia

    I feel bad for this kid going to jail for that woman. What is going on with palin's investigation? Funny how this minor crime is sensationalized but what she did which is far worse, we don't hear a peep about.
    Barbara – 65 yr old white female in NC – if fair is fair then palin should be in jail already for dodging her subpeona. Right? And so should those she ordered not to testify. Right? Fair is fair? Right?

    October 8, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  25. jess

    when i heard sen.mccain refer to sen obama as that one very disappioned,if he was joking are not it was in the wrong place and at the wrong time.sen.mccian should imedily put out ad.and applogies for that ststement.[after all he is asking people to vote fo him to be pres]

    October 8, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
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