The college student who used publicly available information to break in to the Yahoo! Mail account of then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been found guilty on two of the four charges filed against him.
David C. Kernell was convicted of felony obstruction of justice and a misdemeanor count of unauthorized access to a computer, according to news reports. He was acquitted of wire fraud and the jury hearing the case deadlocked on a charge of identity theft.
Federal prosecutors haven't said whether they will retry Kernell, who is the son of a Democratic Tennessee lawmaker, on that last charge.
Kernel faces a maximum of 20 years on the conviction of obstruction of justice, which was brought because he deleted evidence from his hard drive. He faces an additional year on the misdemeanor.
His defense attorney characterized the breach as a college prank that had no criminal intent. He was a student at the University of Tennessee who chronicled the stunt on the 4chan website. But federal prosecutors said it was a serious effort to derail Palin's bid for vice president during the 2008 campaign.
In a Facebook post that compared the breach to the Watergate burglaries, Palin appeared to agree with the prosecution.
"Besides the obvious invasion of privacy and security concerns surrounding this issue, many of us are concerned about the integrity of our country’s political elections," she wrote. "America’s elections depend upon fair competition. Violating the law, or simply invading someone’s privacy for political gain, has long been repugnant to Americans’ sense of fair play."
According to testimony in the trial, Kernell spent about 20 minutes online to compile information needed to reset the password for Palin's Yahoo Mail account. At the time, several published reports questioned whether the then-Alaska governor was improperly using it to conduct official state business.
Kernell said he didn't find anything incriminating and posted a handful of messages and pictures online.
He is free on bail. A sentencing hearing has not been set. ®