back to article Student found guilty of obstruction in Sarah Palin email trial

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 …


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  1. Alastair 7

    A real shame

    I don't think this was ever in any doubt, but can we redefine the term hacking so that it includes *actual* hacking? I think Palin should be found guilty of being an utter idiot whose password can be deduced from public information.

    That isn't hacking. At worst it's mocking the afflicted.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      'Nuff said

      > Palin should be found guilty of being an utter idiot

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Jointly with the "hacker"

        The guy is an idiot. One thing you should never do when facing Mrs Justice is destroy evidence. As a result a minor misdemeanour became a federal felony and he will have a criminal record for the rest of his life.

        What retard.

      2. Naughtyhorse
        Thumb Up

        pig in bullshit

        Palin WAS found guilty of being an idot.

        she lost :D

        even the nation of uncritical spoon-fed dolts saw through her, and will again next time round.

        hope the guy gets a community sentence

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Utter idiot

      > I think Palin should be found guilty of being an utter idiot whose password can be deduced from public information.

      I think Alistair 7 should be found guilty of being an utter idiot for being unable to read the article.

      It states quite clearly:

      "Kernell spent about 20 minutes online to compile information needed to reset the password "

      In other words, according to the article, he did not guess an easy password, he reset the password.

      He was able to do this because of weaknesses in Yahoo's password reset, Not because of an easy password.

    3. The BigYin

      How about...

      ...if Palin hadn't BROKEN THE LAW by using a "personal" account for government business. When will she be in the dock? If anything this kid should get "whistle-blower" protection and be praised for exposing illegal activity.

      One law for the proles, one law for the elite.

      This poor kid will be left to rot and in a few terms the Yanks will have that muppet as Prez.

      May the incorporeal supreme being of choice have mercy on us all.

  2. Arnie Sintheshed


    ....this really was "a serious effort to derail Palin's bid for vice president", then instead of prosecution he should have received the Nobel Peace Prize.

  3. Anonymous Coward


    "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."

    This coming from a member of the political party guilty of gross acts of election tampering in order to get George W Bush into the Whitehouse and keep him there?

    F*ck you Palin!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time to pay up

    When you chose to be a criminal you can expect to eventually pay for your crimes. He knew full well he was violating law.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      People round here seem to think that because they don't like her, and because the password was guessable that makes it ok. Much like saying "I stole his bike, but that's ok he was nasty to me and set his lock to 111".

      As you say, he broke the law and got what he deserved. The obstruction of justice charge is a very serious charge, and relates to him trying to distroy evidence well after the crime, and is a standard charge. With the way US law works he should not get more time for that crime than the hacking, but El Reg are trying to create a great deal of hufffing and puffing again so are giving maximum scentences, without noting this.

    2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects 1

      Cervical smear of the brain

      Suppose this happened to a soccer mom who was so dull witted that she kept her government affairs open to illegal scrutiny on an illegal webserver...


      Hang on... we have a ....

      Forget it. I'm not involved. It's just that if I were parading my ideals as those of a soccer mom, willing to stand up against next door neighbours all of 50 miles away, I'd make sure the children IN MY CARE got my duty of care.

      And I'd think on what I'd done to allow it all to jhappen, before I had anything else to say about my own idiocy in public for a very long time.

  5. Pablo
    Thumb Down


    Isn't it ridiculous that he faces far more jail time on a trumped up charge than for the original offense? Obstructing justice, yeah right. This has nothing to do with justice. He is only being punished because he made the mistake of pissing off the powers that be. If he illegally accessed MY email account nobody would lift a finger.

    1. tfewster

      Bogus +1

      You burgled the house, so 1 year in prison. But you wiped your fingerprints off the doorknob, so another 20 for "obstructing justice"?!

      What happened to the 5th amendment?

      And of course no whistlerblower protection for exposing wrongdoing by a public figure

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Diffrent thing.

        Distruction of evidence at the time of the crime is diffrent to intentionaly distroying evidence when you realis the FBI are looking in to it.. What he was doing is more like braking in to a house and then comeing back a week later to clean the place when the police are looking in to it. The 5th amendment is NOT FUCKING RELEVENT.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          That may be the stupidest thing I've read on here in a while. (Granted, I don't read many of the comments on here... possibly for this very reason.)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Self incrimination

        The 5th amendment gives you the right to not self incriminate. It does not give you the right to prevent others (whether people or objects) from incriminating you. If it did then it would legitimate to intimidate other witness, destroy gathered evidence etc. When a court decides that the authorities have a right to a piece of evidence the you can not tamper with it. It is an offense punishable by law.

        1. Naughtyhorse

          The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

          surely thats a load of bullshit

          I go to court. an a charge of littering

          take the stand and say I didnt do it

          in comes the video evidence of me doing it

          the result

          $50 dollar fine for the littering

          20 years in the state pen for obstructing justice

          I put my hand on the book and said I'd tell the truth, I hear you guys take that particular jewish folk tale pretty seriously. Therefore it is inconceivable that I would not tell the truth. or if i did i'd be struck down dead on the spot.... whatever.

          maybe the idea is that in america you need to commit really big crimes like stealing the country, or the murder of a few million which goes so far beyond the imagination of those brainwashed by a lifetime of swearing allegance that the criminality is not seen.

          ridiculous situation

        2. Saigua


          Contrawise, you can arbitrate it out of rights of evidence. It is his personal computer; not so much the Annotated Alexander Pope. It is sometimes an honor to have one's HD replaced by federal investigation resulting in intellectual exchange; sometimes, Primur Noctis.

  6. Lars Silver badge

    Deservs a medal

    Anybody who took part in preventing Palin becoming a vice president deserves a medal.

  7. David McMahon


    Will she punish him personally?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So sad

    He'd love to get "punished" by Palin no doubt as in tied to the bed posts. <LOL>

    1. TimeMaster T

      Bed posts ...

      I doubt she can even tie her own shoes.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Anonymous Coward

    my understanding was that she used the acount for official business

    and this it should have been in the public record anyway?

  10. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Sarah Palin

    Proof positive that we evolved from primates....

    1. TeeCee Gold badge


      I strongly object to your use of the word "we" in connection with Sarah Palin.

      I'm not sure that the word "evolved" is entirely appropriate in context either.....

  11. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Goose and Gander and the Exploitation of Justice .... an Obstruction and another Violation?

    I wonder how much time in prison the following is worth ..... ...... or is it conveniently different and not a real crime like reading a bimbo's mail, which in the great scheme of sad things would be like trying to get a glimpse of her knickers, and hoping she was a liberated lady and thought them unnecessary.

    Jesus, the lunatics have taken over the asylum and are in government. Fortunately though, there is a surefire way to handle that truth and restore order or collapse the System, which is a simple enough sane choice for all to make and that would include even the craziest of idiots, for you might like to consider that they may be both the same, and either results with the necessary answer delivered.

  12. Alan Denman

    A service to America

    In this case he probably needs to be applauded in the very small part he played in helping save America.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Why take it out on her?

    I'm sitting here reading the various replies fom people, and everybody who seems to be anti-Palin is saying the kid got screwed for nothing more than what eluded to a "college prank". Bullshit.

    Why should respect for her privacy be any different than yours or mine?

    The kid was a college student and a member of a well-to-do family; don't you think he would have known better?

    Like her or not, she was running for a high profile office. Don't you think this kid would have realized this might have been not only a stupid stunt, but a really bad idea with real consequences?

    No, he was certainly no hacker! But he did break the law in a situation involving someone who was running for a very prominent office. I don't feel a lick of sympathy for him at all.

    1. Winkypop Silver badge


      Because that darn-crazy person was nearly VP.

      The world deserves better, much better.

      Yes, while any country has WMD, the rest of the world has a say!

      One way or another.

  14. Apocalypse Later

    Palin haters expose selves, pics at 11:00

    Nothing to see here.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Corporatist "Justice"

    This case was brought to you by the sponsors of American political "justice": Big Oil, drilling in a wilderness near you soon. Don't you just love the taste of Alaskan Crude?

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. DaWolf

      20 years potential for obstruction of justice

      that is more than for murder. Which do you think is a more serious crime? You say it is a form of theft - the maximum sentence for theft is very unlikely to be 20 years (unless you're talking grand larceny, that sort of thing).

      I would hope he gets a suspended sentence frankly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Last time I checked the US still did exicutions for murder, which, um, seems like a harsher sentence than 20 years...

    2. Lars Silver badge

      @Alex, Billions care

      "Who cares that Palin is an idiot"

      Billions care and should care about who is the vice president of the US, and possible the president.

      Palin is hardly an idiot, but having absolutely no education, no knowledge of history, or the world to day (or any day), could provoke idiotic decisions if she had any "power".

      The real idiots are those within the GOB and that "Mc who ever" who accepted her as a candidate.

      I do believe Obama won on his own, but I do hope the voters in the US did understand the complete lack of qualification Palin had, and has, for the position she was aiming at.

      Those who, sort of, defend this student, I think, put this into a larger picture where there is a huge crime against logic, a huge crime against decency compared with a petty thing.

      And the possible 20 years of prison is Nazi, it is the old Soviet Union, North Korea you name it.

      And YEAS, there are billions of people who should care.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Punishment Fitting for the Crime?

    A couple of years in prison maybe, but 20? Seems very steep. But that's the American system. I suspect if it'd been an ordinary member of the public who's account had been hacked it wouldn't have been treated so seriously. The prosecutors at least are guilty of hyperbole.

    1. Originone

      Twenty is a maximum

      It seems logical to me that obstruction of justice carry high maximum sentence sentence so that the punishment, if found guilty, can match up with the crime the justice of which is being obstructed. So twenty would be high for this case, but it is only the maximum he could receive, and his sentence hasn't been handed down yet. It is likely to be much lower. But if he had been obstucting justice in a serial rape case or a murder case or any other more serious crime you would at least like the option of seriously throwing the book at him for doing so.

  18. Pete 8

    Hey I can see

    those deleted files from my front porch!

  19. dog2god

    American Justice

    In Chicago, Illinois a Chicago cop told me of a bust he made. A 60 year old man was in the vicinity of a drug bust. The cop took him down and asked him if he had anything on him. He told the officer he had a .22 revolver in his pocket. The officer took the gun and asked him why he had it. The old man was collecting rents part time and he had the gun to prevent robbery. He was on the south side of Chicago, where things get pretty bad. The old man had a prior when he was 15 years old. They threw the book at him causing him to loose his job with the Board of Education, his pension, and pull time. The same cop arrested a known gang member, who has a arrest sheet several pages long, and he walks; because, he knows how to play the system. The District Attorney wants a solid case so he can will to look good for his re-election bid. In America it's all about the money. The old man was an easy case and fool proof, so he goes down. The punk walks. Welcome to the American justice system. The DA looks good and the cop is frustrated because it's all bullshit. The cop pleaded for the old man to walk. You may like to know that. But, he had to arrest the old man.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      What you seem to be after is a justice system that punishes based on how the public views someone, not on how much evidence there is? Youd love the UK. The guy was carrying a gun. If that's what he was charged with (You don't say) then he diserves it.

      However the way you have written that is sounds like you just copied a chunk of script from Law and Order.

  20. elderlybloke

    The Palin woman

    Sarah Palin #

    Posted Saturday 1st May 2010 18:04 GMT

    Thumb Down

    Proof positive that we evolved from primates....


    Actually proof that at least one has not evolved up to Primate level

  21. Turtle

    No surprises, really

    Here we have a very simple case of a crime having been committed with the intention of effecting the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election, and the prevalent opinion here seems to be that Kernell's actions are acceptable because they were an attempt to sabotage the election in a way that was acceptable (if not actually praiseworthy) to the people who downplay the gravity of those actions. Clearly, as such attitudes towards both democratic process and criminal process become more widespread (and it does seem, to me at least, to become more widespread as time goes by), the ability of democracy to survive decreases. I would expect that political democracy will eventually end up as nothing more than a footnote in human history, as people are, in general, too great hypocrites for it to survive, as the majority of comments here plainly show. I am sure that none of them would actually admit to being against democracy but in fact, they are - even though they would surely consider themselves democracy's greatest supporters.

  22. Carrierbag Head

    Highly predictable rough justice on the way

    It was a silly prank, no more. If he gets more than 2 months inside, then it'll be a complete joke, and a message to say "don't mess with the political elite or try to embarrass them in any way, else you'll pay." Even 2 months would be ridiculously harsh.

    But unfortunately knowing what judges are like when it comes to "hacking" offenses, he'll be looking at a 2 year stretch.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Analogy: Backwards men blaming a woman for being raped

    Reading posts in this blog is like reading posts from ignorant people in a backwards country.

    I have never been so amazed: people who make claims to being enlightened actually blaming the woman who was raped - actively arguing the position of the rapist!

    Oh yea, maybe she was wearing some illegal under-garment, or an illegal tattoo, or... so he tore off her clothes before inspecting her... and then decided it was OK to violate her... and spread samples of her clothes on display for the world to see what evil work he had committed...

    It might not have been her physical privacy which was imposed upon forcibly, but her electronic privacy truly was.

    Had he been the recipient of an email from a private email address containing official business and he went to authorities, he would be a whistle blower. Clearly, he was not a whistle blower. He is a petty electronic rapist.

    Violating the national election process in a free nation, by an opposing party member, makes the process even more outrageous. This partisan should have been brought up on charges related to interfering with a free and open election. Watergate is the standard, this event was a modern take on it - the difference being the criminals are on the left side of the political isle.

    This partisan male criminal was a pig and his small-minded advocates are little more than that.

  24. Stevie


    Well, firstviceroy certainly has all the Palindrone bullet points down pat, presumably written on the palm of his/her hand.

    But strip away the daft rhetoric and dial back the indignation to, say, 5 and (s)he's right. The nitwit in the dock read someone else's mail. Steam open an envelope that wasn't addressed to you and you are guilty of a felony even - and this is the salient part - if the letter was mis-delivered to your house by the post office.

    Palin's lamentable (yet entirely predictable) lack of acumen in securing her e-mail account is not the issue here.

    The nitwit in the dock faked her credentials to read something he knew wasn't addressed to him or intended for his eyes. He wasn't a duly appointed law representative armed with a warrant when he did this, and so he is guilty as a very guilty guilty person who has a particular yen for guilt this day. Whether he is a *real* hacker, cracker or whatever else the dweebs want to argue until the cows come home is entirely beside the point. Under the statutes he has broken a) into some electronic place he wasn't invited to and by doing so, b) the law.

    Oh, and firstviceroy should really understand that "liberal" denotes a philosophy deriving from principles of freedom, and "progressive" is about keeping up with the times. Neither are seen as insults by intelligent people, even the ones who don't agree with those philosophies. They are also not germane to the point at hand, and if you seriously think that this case equates with the Watergate shenanigans at any level you really need to do some more research.

    Perhaps more Ritalin is called for before people comment, for either side of the debate.

  25. Dick
    Thumb Up

    I agree, he deserves a Suspended Sentence

    Preferably by the balls.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All you Sarah Palin haters

    I don't particularly like you either, but both she and broader society are entitled to the defense of the law. Guess what? Breaking into someone's email account is not a socially acceptable thing to do. You are invading someone's privacy and possibly cyber-stalking and compromising their personal financial information.

    Then having done this, this nimrod decides it's time to destroy evidence. As a cursory examination of recent U.S. history will show, obstruction of justice is not a joke charge. If you were arround when Richard Nixon resigned, it was because he was about to be impeached on guess what charge?--obstruction of justice around destroying or hiding evidence concerning the Watergate burglaries. Bill Clinton?-articles of impeachment were brought forward based on him hiding evidence and perjuring in front of a grand jury over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, which had a bearing on the discovery process for his alleged sexual harrassment of Paula Jones.

    In Nixon's case he wasn't even involved in planning the Watergate burglaries. If he had just let things go, he would have lost a couple white house aides to burglary charges, but he would have kept his presidency. As it was, he lost the burglary aides, a few other aides who helped in the coverup, and his presidency. He probably would have been jailed if Gerald Ford didn't pardon him. In Clinton's case, he avoided impeachment, but I believe he was ultimately disbarred in Arkansas for witholding information as an officer of the court (a lawyer), and he settled the Paula Jones harrassment case out of court once it had been shown that yes in fact he did have a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

    I bet half the people who are prepared to give this hacker a medal for trying to bring down Sarah Palin would be ready to man the barricades over various forms of warrentless inspection of private email traffic by the British Government.

  27. Dylan Fahey


    Hun, did Palin just use the word, 'integrity' in a sentence concerning the politcal process.


  28. Jim Marshall

    Needs a "WTF" icon, apply within...

    What does a hacked email account have anything to do with the "integrity" of the political process?

    Oh yeah, its Palin who is talking: logic and proportion have nothing to do with it in actual reality.


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