Kernell found guilty on 2 counts in Palin email hacking case

By HARLOW SUMERFORD
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A mistrial was declared in federal court Friday on one count against David Kernell for breaking into Sarah Palin's email account.

Jurors found him guilty on the other three counts.

The jury found Kernell:

  • No verdict on count one – identity theft
  • Not guilty on count two – wire fraud
  • Guilty of a lesser charge on count three – computer fraud
  • Guilty of obstruction of justice

The court hasn't decided yet whether to accept a partial verdict on those three counts or declare a mistrial.

Deliberations background

Jurors said Thursday afternoon they're unanimous on three of the four counts against Kernell, but they deadlocked on the count for identity theft.

Some jurors said others aren't following jury instructions and that caused the deadlock.

The judge gave the jurors the option to deliver a partial verdict on the three unanimous counts, then continue deliberating on the other. They chose to keep deliberating instead.

The attorneys said they've never been involved in a partial verdict trial.

The defense asked for a mistrial on the identity theft count, but the judge denied the motion.

Around 11:40 a.m. Thursday, the jurors asked to see federal laws regarding computer fraud and wire fraud as mentioned in the identity theft count.

The judge gave the jurors copies of a portion of the laws, although the defense thought they should be given a copy of the entire law.

Jurors got the case about 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, and the judge dismissed them for the day around 4:40.

They spent Wednesday deliberating from 9:00 a.m. until around 4:15.

Thursday and Friday they deliberated from around 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

The jury isn't sequestered in this trial. A jury of eight men and six women heard the case, but two of them were alternates.

Case background

Kernell is charged with four felonies, including identity theft, wire fraud, computer fraud and obstruction of justice. If convicted, the maximum possible penalty is 50 years in prison.

Kernell, now 22, is accused of gaining access to Palin's email when he was a student at the University of Tennessee in 2008.

Palin was governor of Alaska at the time and the running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Investigators say Kernell gained access to Palin's email by providing her birth date and zip code to Yahoo's password retrieval system. Kernell correctly answered questions for the password retrieval.

In closing arguments Monday, Kernell's attorney said what he did was a prank, and he had no criminal intent.

The prosecution told the jury that a prank is playful and funny, but there was nothing funny about what Kernell did.


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