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Court upholds conviction of student in Palin e-mail hack

Washington, Tue, 31 Jan 2012 ANI

Washington, Jan.31 (ANI): A federal appeals court has rejected a former University of Tennessee college student's appeal against being convicted for hacking former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's personal e-mail account during the 2008 campaign.

 

Lawyers for the ex-student, David Kernell, said the felony obstruction of justice statute he was convicted under was so vague as to be unconstitutional.

 

In particular, they argued, Kernell had no obvious notice that a federal investigation was underway before he deleted files from his computer and defragmented his hard disk.

 

However, according to Politico, in an opinion Monday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said the law was clear enough to be enforced and it covered the kind of conduct Kernell allegedly engaged in.

 

Defense lawyers told a jury that Kernell was engaged in a foolish prank and not a malevolent crime in September 2008 when he used a "lost password" feature on Yahoo to gain control of Palin's e-mail account and post screenshots of her messages and at least one family photo.

 

After the jury convicted him in 2010 on the obstruction charge and a misdemeanor of computer intrustion (and acquitted him or deadlocked on two other charges), Kernell was sentenced to a year and a day in jail.

 

Kernell, an economics student and son of a Democratic state legislator in Tennessee, appealed the obstruction conviction, but not the computer intrusion one.

 

In the meantime, he reported to jail last January and was released in November, according to the Bureau of Prisons web site.

 

Federal sentences of more than a year are usually reduced 15 percent for so-called "good time."

 

A lawyer for Kernell said he plans to ask the full bench of the 6th Circuit to review the case. (ANI)

 


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