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. KYJurisDoctor

    I do not know if this was a silly prank or not, but this young man is about to have his life slightly altered.

    October 8, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  2. dj

    who cares.. Palin is an attacker and a liar.. She needs to start telling the truth. I don't care who gets into her business, emails, phone calls or anything else..
    There is no way she can run this country. When she speaks she sounds stupid.. Not educated at all. No way do I want her nor mccain ( the old man with cancer ) running this great country of ours.

    October 8, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  3. A. Henry

    Really I don't have a personal problem with this chic. But how do we know if she hasn't been rallying around with terriosts. After all she can see Russia from her home right!!!!!!!!! She needs to leave the politics alone and tend to her sick and problemed children.What kind of mother or leader would put her family in harms way just to prove a point that a woman can have power. Real power is when you put your personal family matters first. I can't see how she can care for her little boy and deal with america's problems.

    October 8, 2008 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  4. Ohio Independent

    Sarah should also be charged for using personal e-mail while on state business. They are using this to incite hate in America, is this the reform that they are talking about. I've changed my vote for Obama / Biden '08....

    October 8, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  5. Willy

    Good. I hope they put that little nitwit away or make him join the peace core

    October 8, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  6. Tired of W, OH

    It was "pretexting", not hacking. It's still wrong, but please get the terminology right.

    October 8, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |


    October 8, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  8. John in Ohio

    Did her a favor. It could have been anybody, could have been anytime. Better to have some kid do it now then have some Russian hacker do it when and if she's VP and sending official vice presidential emails over fricking Yahoo. Taught her a good lesson about security.

    October 8, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  9. senior for obama

    Obama will protect my retirement.

    October 8, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  10. Thomas

    This hacker deserves a trial and if found guilty needs to be sent to prision.

    Unless there is evidence (and we should stick with that quaint tradition of evidence) that the father was actively involved, the father's political position should not be a factor in this crime.

    October 8, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  11. Marie in California

    If you do the crime, you do the time....doesn't matter what political party you support.

    October 8, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  12. A chicken clucks in Johns yard

    This kid was looking for hot photos and we all know it .lol

    October 8, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  13. Tony



    October 8, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  14. MD, TX

    A democrat hacking into anothers email for PERSONAL reasons. America needs to get ready for this type of activity from an Obama administration.

    October 8, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  15. Dylan

    Palin is a moron for using unsecured personal email that is web-based for conducting official state business and communications.

    October 8, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  16. Bridgette-PA

    "Auds" wrote – JUST GOES TO SHOW HOW SICK DEMOCRATS REALLY ARE." – Well, well, well.....look who's talking. A republican calling Democrats "SICK". The only "sick" people are McFailin' and you!

    OBAMA/BIDEN -08!

    October 8, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  17. Patrick Henry,Ft. Myers

    I'm sure it's her own fault...at least according the the campaign of Barack Hussein Obama–because she used her freedom and liberty to make personal choices that someone with criminal and mischievous intent–capitalized on.

    After all...the one thing Democrats do best is rationalize realities facing them–and deflect blame everywhere but back home where it belongs.

    You can be Commander In Chief (even if you were not even a Boy Scout), you can perform the executive functions of President (it doesn't matter if you don't have the supervisory skills of a McDonald's Manager), you can deliver visionary legislation to become laws of the land (even though not one single piece of legislation has been crafted in testimony to the fact).

    Liberalism–real, unreal, mental illness?

    October 8, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  18. tech

    A poster wrote "what if it was your email that was hacked" – I wouldn't be SOOOO dumb to use an easy to crack pwd. Doesn't she pay ANY attention to the pwd hints telling her not to use something easy. I'm sure she also uses the same pwd for many things so she might want to consider changing all of her pwds to something slightly more difficult to figure out. This is a good reminder for all of you non-tech folks out there who are using obvious pwds, like your name or your spouse's name or b'day. Alpha-numeric combos with a combo of uppercase and lowercase letters and when allowed special characters are the strongest. I don't like Palin and don't condone hacking into anyone's acct but it's a good point that if she was dumb enough to use a very easy to figure out pwd AND is discussing gov't business using this acct, it could have easily been discovered by one of those terrorists she keeps talking about. Use your brain (or what substitutes as one!)

    October 8, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  19. Ray Fisher

    Unfortunately, Democrats are famous for snatching defeat from the Jaws of Victory. When will they learn these Watergate tactics never succeed??? 30 years after the Nixonian debacle the parties have switched places with the Dems spying and the Repubs crying. We need a new Constitution Party where all members are sworn to follow all laws and anyone who violates is immediately removed from the party. Parties should be self-judging before courts are involved.

    October 8, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  20. milo

    Well, he'll go to court. Let's see if he's found guilty.

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

    Bear in mind that the kid made it known on the internet immediately. If he'd kept his mouth shut he could have just been silently reading her email for months, who knows what juicy tidbits he would have gotten that way.

    October 8, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  22. darko

    When McCain pointed Obama out for voting for a Bush oil bill loaded with pork and said, "that one voted for it"

    The Obama camp immediately focused on the 'That one' to deflect away from the fact that HE INDEED VOTED FOR IT.

    It's ashame that this candidate NEVER has to answer for his record.

    How can you believe what a candidate promises if you he doesn't have a record to judge and his character is suspect?

    And, yes, his character is suspect. Everything you've been TOLD about Obama is either from him or his campaign...look at his record on taxes, gun control, abortion, socialism, radicalism. LOOK AT THE RECORD.

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

    Maybe he should refuse to participate in his investigation. Palin and McCain camp can hide Palin's garbage but everyone else has to be accountable for their actions. What is up with that?

    October 8, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. Palin sells sex

    The sign Palin is holding doesn't mention John McCain. Is she running on her own ticket? How arrogant. Palin is out for herself.

    October 8, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  25. Captain Rob Hughes

    In this case it is resonable that she had an expectation of privacy. Lock this kid up! He represents the slippery slope of infridging on peoples personal expectation of privacy. NO different than a peeping tom or voyuer.

    It does no service to self or country by breaking the facets that bind this country together. This is not pro Repub or anit Dem. This is a civil rights issue.

    At least he didn't hide behind I am dumb college kid excuse..

    October 8, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
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