Palin hacker found guilty on two counts

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Guilty of two of four charges.

The 22-year-old man accused of hacking into the Yahoo email account of Sarah Palin while she was the Republican candidate for vice president was found guilty of two of four counts.

David Kernell was found guilty of unlawful computer access and obstruction of justice, according to a report in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

He was, however, acquitted of the charge of wire fraud and a mistrial was declared on count one: identity theft.

Kernell was a 20-year-old economics student at the University of Tennessee when he hacked his way past security questions to access Palin's personal email account in 2008. Kernell gained access by providing Palin's birth date and ZIP code to Yahoo's password retrieval system. At that time, she was the governor of Alaska and recently recruited as running mate in the US presidential bid of John McCain.

The government will decide next week whether to retry the case, with sentencing to follow after that decision is made, according to Harlow Sumerford, a news reporter with WATE 6, reporting from the scene. Kernell and his attorney had no comment for the press as they left the courtroom, he added.

A jury in Knoxville comprised of six men and six women, began hearing testimony last week in the case, including from Palin and her daughter Bristol, who both testified that the event disrupted their lives.

"It caused a huge disruption in the campaign," Palin told jurors during her 45 minutes of testimony, according to the Sentinel.

Wade Davies, Kernell's attorney, argued that what Davies did was closer to a prank than a crime, according to the Sentinel. He added that Kernell didn't use the information he accessed or harass Palin's family. But, the Sentinel reported that prosecution lawyer Thomas Van Flein told the jury the hacking was "disruptive to [Palin's] ability to communicate with her staff."

Answering reporters' questions following her testimony last Friday, Palin said, "It's not right. It's not legal. It's not fair. It's not decent," according to the Sentinel.

Davies argued that federal authorities trumped up charges because the high-profile Palin is the alleged victim. He urged jurors to penalise Kernell only for what he claimed was the more appropriate conviction: misdemeanor unauthorised computer access.

Kernell was present in court throughout the proceedings, but did not testify. He is the son of Democratic state representative Mike Kernell of Memphis, who has served in the state's House of Representatives for more than three decades.

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