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 in AR

    Give him the same punishment you would if he was a republican. Elect him to congress, give him a mulit-million dollar golden parachute, lifetime health care benefits and send him on a $440,000 vacation to a spa in California.

    October 8, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  2. NC for Obama

    Palin finds criminal behavior "shocking"? Maybe she should look in the mirror at the epitome of corruption staring back at her!

    Palin is an ignorant and reckless fool. I find her to be highly insulting to the intelligence of strong women everywhere.

    October 8, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. dude

    Get ready America, the rappers will party at the white house, or will they still call it white house.

    October 8, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  4. tulsa

    Funny how the majority of Democratic posters say "equality under the law" Even if it's a son of a Democratic State rep.
    While the right wing nut cases like YOU ignore the foul tactices of your party's LEADERS. Look in the mirror and see a hypocrite.

    October 8, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |


    THE REPUBLICANS WONT MAKE SARAH PAIN-LIN ANSWER QUESTIONS IN THE TROOPERGATE INVESTIGATION, but they are quick to rush to judgement in prosecuting this poor kid!


    October 8, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. Jean

    * Hack Gov. Palin's email
    * Create the US Economic Crisis
    * Defraud American people
    * Publicly humiliate strong women candidates

    ...if the Democrats can't win the election after all this political strategy then they really don't deserve to be in DC.

    October 8, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  7. Billy

    This highlights why Palin is unfit for command.

    You DONT use private e-mail for government business.

    I am just thankful it was a teenager that did this and not the Russians or Chinese. Think of the disastrous effect this could have been had a foreign government hacked her account.

    October 8, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. Patricia in Ohio

    I am waiting for them to find out all about Palin. That one has something to hide as McCain made reference in the debate last night. I wonder how long it will take them to find out about her? What the kid did was wrong but what she did to that commissioner in Alaska was wrong too and she deserves to be punished. All is fair in love and war.

    October 8, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  9. D.Kimbro OHIO

    Chicken little get out of my mind. I was thinking the exact same thing. I wonder how long it will take for the McCain camp to say he is the nephew of Bill Ayers, and thought this all while listening to a taped sermon from Rev. Wright. He was probably viewing the email at Senator Obama's home office. If there is prrof that this kid did this, he deserves to be sent to his room.

    October 8, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  10. mobile251ala

    thanks for taking one for the team

    October 8, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  11. TangoDancer

    I feel sorry for this kid and his family. Who knows what he was thinking, but he certainly did not comprehend the seriousness of this offense. Hacking into accounts and displaying/distributing the information to other people is an action that must be punished. It's unfortunate since he must be a really bright kid – at least regarding the use of technology. Hopefully he'll be able to deal with the punishment and rebuild his life later on. I wish him the best.

    October 8, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. Larry of Boston

    Cyber crime, identity theft, and Internet privacy are problems that continue to grow daily and affect millions around the globe. The could send a large and clear message and give this criminal the max. If he he gets off light, we can point to his Democratice connections. Don;t bury this under the rug – we need to aggressively enforce these laws and lunish offenders harshly to discourage these acts. To the court handiling this matter – Act with Courage and with a blind eye towards the stats of the defendant

    October 8, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  13. tesy

    It was so quick to indict Kernell. What about Palin's case?

    October 8, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  14. Sarah, Northern Colorado

    While I'm definitely against the invasion of anyone's privacy, how is Ms. Palin any different from the rest of us "Joe Six-Packs" who have our emails hacked? My Yahoo account was hacked into on several occasions! Why won't America's legal system indict those responsible on MY behalf?

    Oh wait, because I don't utilize my personal email addresses for governmental purposes!

    October 8, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  15. Kevin

    Wow....the 20 year old will get job from GOOGLE....that is from sure..

    October 8, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. Robert

    Well, sure goes to show what his folks taught him.........the liberal way and breaking the law is OK. Hope the law comes down on him with both feet!

    October 8, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. untrustworthy CNN


    Why did you choose to report that the hacker is the son of a Democrat from Tennessee? Just read the piece without the references to the boy's father or his father's political party, and no relevant information is lost.

    You like to boast of your journalistic neutrality, but your work actually speaks otherwise.

    October 8, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  18. Winnie in Montana

    Joe Cool: Yep, they learned from Nixon (remember Watergate? Ever heard of it?).

    October 8, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  19. conny

    Another amazing story, keep the focus on anything and anybody so that your garbage want surface. I tell you these people really think that they are above the law. Abuse of Power!

    October 8, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  20. Chuck

    Just ignore the subpoena, indictment, or any other legal action. That's what Palin would do. Why not the hacker? Who cares about the law anyway...


    October 8, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  21. Elizabeth, NH

    Obama / Biden will win because they will be able to Unite the country.
    Palin is a separatist and a divider, and not qualified to run a diverse
    country. It was pretty clear in Palin's "he's not like us" propoganda,
    that she has an un-American agenda, of which we should be wary .
    Palin will sink John McCain's ship.

    October 8, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  22. meron

    Who cares abou hackers!!!!!!!!!!!!! they did that to Obama in the primaries. talk about issues matter to avrage people. We did not get that from Palin.

    October 8, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  23. Hey McCain- Thanks but no thanks

    - MCCAIN'S CONTRADICTION -McCain stated that he was going to freeze all spending when he becomes President. Then he said that he was going to buy up all the bad mortgages when he becomes President. THIS IS A BIG CONTRADICTION!!

    October 8, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  24. Women for Obama/Biden

    First aof all this guy is an American..its disturbing for anyone to support this crazy notion that this guy did something extra ordinary....(even though its wrong)..Do you kow how many crackers are out there trying to get our top security information that are not citizens...yet people look at this guy as a criminal...I think he should be rewarded for exposing how vulnerable the so alled "Ready on day one Executive nightmare" of a Gov. Does that mean everyone thing Chinesse,Russians, Japanesse, and Arabian, Crackers have gone to sleep? They are far more advanced than just yahoo. if as a Gov. Sarah didnt understand the need for securing her personal email account...How as a VP will she secure America's top security information. HUH?

    October 8, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |


    October 8, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
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