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. Dan Ahrens

    It's funny how this story made it on CNN, but one of the big stories yesterday was that the FBI raided the offices of ACORN yesterday in Las Vegas for voting fraud. I haven't seen CNN report this yet. "The most trusted name in News, for the Democrats"

    October 8, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. Obama/Biden 08

    It was a joke. Give us a break...

    October 8, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  3. Independent Pam

    Reading all these hateful posts makes me KNOW for sure I don' t want to share your political party. You guys are pathetic.

    October 8, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  4. Ed

    I read my local paper, Sports Afield, Field and Stream and my school professional journal. That isn't so hard to say and it didn't take me a week to think of it. Sorry Sarah, see you back in Alaska come Nov. 5!!

    October 8, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |

    whoever omg is i think you are just as dumb for wanting to vote for someone that lies about his connections and won't open things about his past. So basically we don't know the real Barak Obama all we know is who he says he is. We know the real John Mccain.

    October 8, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  6. Terry, Lakeland Florida

    Sounds like the normal Dem play book. Get someone low level to break the law for you then walk away with clean hands. Sounds like Obama...hey we never did find out how much that fine will be for parents that cannot afford health coverage for their kids.

    October 8, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  7. Bridget

    So this kid turned himself in, while Palin and her husband refuse to cooperate with authorities...interesting.

    This was her personal e-mail address, correct, not her government one?

    October 8, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  8. Cuban-mami-4-OBAMA

    Its terrible that this 20-year-old did this. He should be in jail.

    BUT........how about the slander of Sen. Obama by Palin and the rest of the far-right-hate-fear-lie-mongers?

    Each day and night, on "Faux News", Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, Reagan, and all the other TV and radion hate-mongers shows, Sen. Obama is LIED ABOUT, SLANDERED. HOW IS THIS OKAY?

    Its amazing to me how the far-right-hate-mongers get away with saying that vicious things, telling lie after lie. And ONLY Keith Olbermann of "Countdown" on MSNBC calls them on it!

    What's happened to FREEDOM of the press?

    *** Hope this comment gets posted CNN, comment after comment of mine is disappearing****

    October 8, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  9. Bald ex-warrior

    Wow, looks like there is some honor among the youth. Stepping forward to take his lumps like a man. He broke the law and will pay for it.

    I wonder what the son of a Republican would have done? Hide behind dad's connections until things blow over? Or just lawyer up and delay?

    Moral Majority is no longer with the Republicans.

    The Moral and Civic Majority is with the Dems.

    October 8, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  10. Lisa P

    Two things I hope:

    - That this young man gets a fair trial despite the McCain campaign's attempts to make political hay out of this accusation

    - That the conversation goes back to whether or not Sarah Palin was using a personal e-mail account to conduct State business as part of an attempt to circumvent Alaska's Open Records Law. Shades of Bush/Cheney!

    October 8, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  11. Amy Q

    She used a yahoo email account for gov't emails!!! Who *really* broke the law here? Yahoo gets hacked into all the time – she broke the law more by putting gov't emails at risk. Time to go after her too.

    October 8, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  12. ez

    Early voting is the way to go.

    Registered Republican voted Obama/Biden 08

    October 8, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  13. Phoenix

    He needed to be. Palin is unfit, but right is right.

    October 8, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  14. Tony

    As all of America will soon find out, Palin knows a lot about violating the law.

    She also is also going to be found guilty gosh darnit.

    Gee willickers, what then?

    October 8, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  15. Dadedi

    Release him now!! He is a freedom fighter. Go Obabimaden!!!

    October 8, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  16. David in Illinois

    Of course nobody is above the law. He must face the penalties under the law. Now let's move on to the REALissues and more pressing questions: This youth is not running for Vice President of the United States. What laws, if any, did Sarah Palin and her administration/family break under TrooperGate?? We're still waiting for a FULL ACCOUNTING of that fiasco. A young hacker? Kids' stuff compared with abuse of power in office.

    October 8, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  17. Tony

    Palin, in her ever constant state of incompetence and incoherency will campaign now on how the entire Democratic Party are hackers.

    This stooge needs to be given a one-way ticket back to Moose country!

    October 8, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  18. Connie

    ? If Palin is such a hot shot, Why is that she is conducting official Government Business through Yahoo???? Cant Alaska's most finest afford a more professional government Website?


    October 8, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  19. Army Vet in Charlotte

    It's called operational security. If she can't keep her own correspondence secret from a 20 year old in his parents' basement how well will she keep our national secrets?

    October 8, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  20. Jayson

    "a shocking invasion of the governor's privacy..."
    And your stance on a woman's right to choose is not?

    October 8, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  21. Tony

    I don't know what the big deal is anyhow. It isn't like anyone could make heads or tales out of what Palin says in person or in an e-mail.

    Maybe she should be put in charge of National Security. The enemy would never figure out what she says.

    October 8, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  22. fella from Chicago

    Ah Socialism; it will be great to have the government mandate everything for the individual. Democracy is soon to be dead in this country. Now forefathers, you can roll over in your graves. In two years the American people will be advocating the overthrow of Obama and his wretched government controlled society.

    October 8, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  23. John

    Hacking is wrong. However no one else will vet her.

    October 8, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  24. Debbie

    He broke the law, so he should be indicted and pay for his actions. I am sure that the Bush administration already knew Palin was improperly using Yahoo mail to conduct government business, just like they probably know every purchase I make on QVC.com. But for the rest of us who only guess Palin was a doofus, the crime did us a favor in confirming that for us.

    October 8, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  25. joe schmoe

    Ok, the kid working for the Democratic party gets indicted, how is it that Harriet Meiers, and Todd Palin have both ignored subpoenas and neither has been charged with anything? Also, that doesn't get any press time.

    October 8, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
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