Son of Democratic state representative indicted for hack of Republican vice presidential candidate’s private e-mail
A Democratic state representative’s son has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Tennessee for intentionally hacking into Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s personal e-mail account.
David C. Kernell, 20, was charged with one count of breaking into the Republican vice presidential nominee’s personal Yahoo e-mail account. Kernell, an economics student at the University of Tennessee, is the son of state Rep. Michael Kernell of Memphis.
According to the Justice Department, Kernell turned himself in to authorities.
He pleaded not guilty in federal court in Knoxville, Tenn., on Wednesday.
He was released without posting bond, but the court imposed several conditions. Kernell is not allowed to own a computer and can only use the Internet to check e-mail and do class work.
Trial is set for Dec. 16, and if convicted, Kernell faces up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine.
According to the indictment, Kernell, who used the nicknames "rubico" and "rubico 10" on the Internet, allegedly reset Palin’s e-mail password to "popcorn" using Yahoo’s password-recovery tool on Sept. 16 by "researching and correctly answering a series of personal security questions."
After changing the password, the indictment alleges he made screenshots of her e-mail directory, e-mail messages and other personal information before posting them to a public Web site. He also posted the reset password.
Kernell was able to obtain the personal e-mail addresses of Palin’s family members, pictures of her family, her birth date and at least one family member’s cell phone number. He also had access to her address book.
The indictment alleges that after posting Palin’s personal information online, Kernell "removed, altered, concealed and covered up files on his laptop computer" to throw off a possible investigation.
Investigators were able to track Kernell down by tracing the hack to his Knoxville apartment through an Internet proxy site.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee and investigated by the FBI’s Anchorage and Knoxville field offices.