Special Report: The Sarah Palin Hacker

David Kernell
David Kernell

By Janice Broach - bio | email

KNOXVILLE, TN (WMC-TV) - It seemed unlikely at first: A University of Tennessee economics major from Memphis was accused of hacking the personal email account of then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who also happened to be the running mate for Republican Presidential contender John McCain.

The suspect, 22-year-old David Kernell, is the son of long-time Tennessee Democratic State Representative Mike Kernell.

"When this hit unexpectedly, I got hundreds and hundreds of calls, and we got hundreds and hundreds of emails, and it was just overwhelming," Mike Kernell said in a recent interview.
A federal grand jury indicted David Kernell, accusing him of answering security questions that helped him figure out the password to Palin's personal Yahoo email account.

Investigators say Kernell changed Palin's password to POPCORN, and then posted the new password online so others could access her email.  Investigators also say Kernell destroyed computer evidence of the crime.

The federal magistrate in Kernell's case has dealt the defense a few blows, denying one motion after the other.  For instance, he refused to dismiss search warrants for internet provider records.

Mike Kernell will be at his son's federal trial in Knoxville when he isn't dealing with legislative business.

"I think the public and my district has a right to know that I will be in session voting, and then I've got friends who will help me drive to Knoxville to visit David," he said.

Mike Kernell said on the advice of attorneys, he cannot talk about the case.
"I think everyone has to decide on their own what this is," he said. "I'll be really glad when the judgement is in."

David Kernell decided not to attend classes at UT this semester as he waits for his trial - a trial that will get plenty of publicity.  Mike Kernell said he is putting it all in perspective.

"When you're in a car wreck, or you're facing cancer, or your kid's going to St. Jude, they're facing a far greater tragedy or trauma in their lives," he said. "We will get through this, but there are other things people go through that are far worse."

Stay with Action News 5 and WMCTV.com for updates as jury selection begins Tuesday in Kernell's case.

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