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Posted by on Oct 10, 2008 in Politics | 2 comments

Palin Hacker Accused of Previous Computer Hijinks

David Kernell, who pleaded innocent earlier in the week to illegally gaining access to Governor Sarah Palin’s personal Yahoo e-mail account, apparently has a history. Kernell, the 20-year-old son of Democratic Tennessee state representative Mike Kernell, lived for a time in Killeen, TX.

Tracey McDaniels, one of his Texas middle-school teachers, remembers him well. “He stood head and shoulders above everybody else… He was the kind of kid you could not forget.” It’s the rest of what McDaniels remembers that promises to complicate Kernell’s present predicament:

“He did the same kind of thing when he went to school here,” said McDaniels, a history teacher at Eastern Hills Middle School. “He and another kid found a way to get onto the school’s server – they just sat down and figured out the password.”…

The 20-year-old son of a state representative in Tennessee, Kernell attended Killeen Independent School District schools from 1999 through 2001, and last month was the focus of an FBI investigation into the hacking of the Alaska governor’s Yahoo e-mail account….

And McDaniels said all of it – the computers and politics – fits well with the seventh-grade student he remembers having in class at Eastern Hills.

“He was in TAG – the talented and gifted class – and he certainly lived up to it,” McDaniels said. “He was one of the smartest kids I ever taught, especially when it came to the social sciences and politics.”

Yesterday I embedded video of an interview with “computer security consultant, author, and renowned former hacker” Kevin Mitnick. Mitnick, who was convicted in 1999, spent five years in prison (eight months of it in solitary confinement), recently signed a book deal for a tell-all about his hacking stunts.

Mitnick is himself evidently still on some watch lists; he was detained at the Atlanta airport in October and released after a trip to Columbia. So he knows from whereof he speaks when he says of Kernell:

It’s unfortunate because it’s a young guy. He did something to probably show off that he can do it, and now he might suffer a felony conviction that will last him the rest of his life.

I get it that the kid done wrong. But I think it awfully sad that such a bright young man (an economics major no less; we need them now!) made such a terrible mistake in judgment.

Via TG Daily.

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  • rudi

    Orin Kerr ( here ) and Scott Horton ( here ) have good posts about the DOJ witch hunt against the kid. Both say he’s probably guilty of criminal hacking, but only at a misdemeanor level.

    As Orin Kerr explains here, hacking someone’s email account and making use of the information gained is a crime; it may either be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending upon the hacker’s intentions. And here’s the rub. In order to dramatize the case and get a felony indictment, the prosecutors needed to allege that it was “committed in furtherance of a criminal or tortuous” act. Here’s Prof. Kerr, again on the case:

    Oddly, though, the indictment doesn’t exactly state what the crime or tort is that the intrusion was designed to further. It just states that the intrusion was “in furtherance of the commission of a criminal act in violation of the laws of the United States, including 18 U.S.C. Section 2701 and 18 U.S.C. Section l030(a)(2)” But Section 2701 and Section 1030 are the intrusion statutes themselves! It makes no sense to allow a felony enhancement for a crime committed in furtherance of the crime itself; presumably the enhancement is only for intrusions committed in furtherance of some other crime. Otherwise the felony enhancement is meaningless, as every misdemeanor becomes a felony.

    Now the Bush DoJ would never be guilty of a partisan attack…

    • onleyone


      you took the words out of my, er, keyboard.

      btw, love the avatar, one of my favorite birds. 🙂

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