Palin email hacker pleads innocence, gets court date

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Knoxville (TN) – The man accused of hacking into Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s email account has pleaded not guilty and will stand trial.  20-year-old David Kernell, a University of Tennessee economics major, was released on his own recognizance and has been ordered by the judge to refrain from most computer activities.  His trial is set for December 16.

Kernell is the son of a Tennessee state Democratic lawmaker, but the elder Kernell adamantly claims he didn’t know about his son’s criminal activities.  David has been charged with a single count of illegally accessing a protected a computer, a felony, and could face up to five years in prison, $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised release afterwards.

A federal grand jury indicted Kernell for allegedly accessing Sarah Palin’s Yahoo email account.  We previously reported that he successfully guessed Palin’s questions for the Change Password page and then changed the email password to “popcorn”.  Afterwards he read all the emails and posted some of the information to a popular web forum.  The FBI found Kernell by tracing proxy server logs back to Kernell’s apartment.

Apparently Kernell has a history of hacking into other computers, according to a recent NetworkingWorld article.  His seventh grade history teacher, Tracey McDaniels, claims Kernell illegally gained access to a school server.  He fessed up quickly to the hack and was given detention.

While Kernell is free, his activities have been severely restricted by the judge.  He is forbidden from owning a computer and can only use the Internet to check his email and help with homework.  Kernell also cannot leave eastern Tennessee without written permission.  Interestingly enough, he has a girl friend in a neighboring state, so we’ll see how that relationship is going to work out.