Trial underway for man suspected in hacking Palin's e-mail in '08

The trial of a college student accused of hacking into Sarah Palin's e-mail account has started. Prosecutors claim David Kernell wanted to derail Palin's candidacy, while defense attorneys say their client is nothing more than a prankster.
By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 21, 2010; 5:12 PM

President Obama and Sarah Palin may have their differences about foreign relations and nuclear weapons policy.

Still, politics is politics and the law is the law, so prosecutors from the Justice Department trooped into federal court Wednesday to prosecute a man charged with hacking Palin's e-mail account in 2008, when she was the Republican nominee for vice president.

There will be no shortage of Palins in the Knoxville, Tenn., courtroom. Palin has been subpoenaed to testify about what her lawyers called in court documents "a gross violation of privacy intended to embarrass her and the McCain-Palin campaign." Her daughter Bristol testified Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported, and Palin's husband, former "first dude" Todd, may take the stand as well, Justice Department officials said.

David Kernell, a former student at the University of Tennessee, is charged with accessing the then-Alaska governor's Yahoo account by using a password-recovery tool, and correctly answering a series of personal security questions, to reset the password to "popcorn." Prosecutors say Kernell then made screenshots of Palin's e-mail directory and personal information, such as pictures and the cellphone number of a family member, and posted the material online.

Kernell, 22, is the son of a Democratic Tennessee legislator. The four felony counts he faces carry a maximum prison sentence of 50 years.

When the hacking was revealed in September 2008, in the heat of Palin's campaign as Sen. John McCain's running mate, the McCain campaign called it "a shocking invasion of the Governor's privacy and a violation of law."

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