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Palin E-Mail Snoop Gets Year In Prison 417

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-not-white-collar-resort-prison dept.
netbuzz writes "David Kernell, whose prying into Sarah Palin's personal e-mail account caused an uproar two months before the 2008 presidential election, was today sentenced to a year and a day by a judge in Knoxville, Tenn. Kernell was convicted of misdemeanor computer fraud and felony obstruction of justice back in April. His attorney had argued for probation on the grounds that what Kernell did amounted to a prank that spun out of control."
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Palin E-Mail Snoop Gets Year In Prison

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  • As I recall (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It was guessing the answer to her Security Question that was publicly available on the internet. If that's "hacking" then I'm fucking Kevin Mitnick.

    • Re:As I recall (Score:5, Informative)

      by DurendalMac (736637) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:24PM (#34208288)
      Do you see "hacking" in there? He was convicted of computer fraud as he accessed an account that was not his. He also got busted for obstruction of justice by panicking and wiping his drive, which is what landed him the real jail time.
      • by mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:26PM (#34208302)
        How Mark Zuckerberg Hacked Into Rival ConnectU In 2004
        Mar. 5, 2010
        http://www.businessinsider.com/how-mark-zuckerberg-hacked-connectu-2010-3 [businessinsider.com]

        ...At one point, Mark appears to have exploited a flaw in ConnectU's account verification process to create a fake Cameron Winklevoss account with a fake Harvard.edu email address.

        In this new, fake profile, he listed Cameron's height as 7'4", his hair color as "Ayran Blond," and his eye color as "Sky Blue." He listed Cameron's "language" as "WASP-y."

        Next, Mark appears to have logged into the accounts of some ConnectU users and changed their privacy settings to invisible. The idea here was apparently to make it harder for people to find friends on ConnectU, thus reducing its utility. Eventually, Mark appears to have gone a step further, deactivating about 20 ConnectU accounts entirely...
      • Re:As I recall (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Pojut (1027544) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:27PM (#34208324) Homepage

        I gotta say, hacking a high-profile politician's email account (ESPECIALLY when they are running for vice president, which means everything of theirs is being watched 24/7) is a really stupid idea. There's pretty much no way you can get away with that nowadays...

        • Re:As I recall (Score:5, Insightful)

          by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:37PM (#34208464)

          I gotta say, hacking a high-profile politician's email account (ESPECIALLY when they are running for vice president, which means everything of theirs is being watched 24/7) is a really stupid idea. There's pretty much no way you can get away with that nowadays...

          You think that when Sarah Palin became the candidate, that the government started monitoring traffic on her Yahoo account? That's not how this kid was caught, he was caught because he changed the password and posted it online.

          • by Pojut (1027544)

            No, I think she (or at least people close to her in an official capacity) started paying closer attention.

            Besides, my point wasn't even directed at her specifically, just in general.

        • Re:As I recall (Score:5, Insightful)

          by c6gunner (950153) on Friday November 12, 2010 @03:21PM (#34209750)

          There's pretty much no way you can get away with that nowadays...

          Pure unadulterated nonsense. Drive around town and find an open WiFi access point. Use an internet cafe. Use the TOR network. Hack a couple foreign computers (for some reason, Korea is especially easy), and bounce the connection through them. For best results, combine all of the above. There's pretty much no way you could NOT get away with it, unless you're a complete idiot. Which this guy obviously is since not only did he not bother to cover his tracks while breaking into the account, but he also didn't take any precautions when he released the information. He was just begging to be busted.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by schmidt349 (690948)

      For better or worse, laws against computer hacking are generally phrased in terms of "unauthorized access" to computer resources, "unauthorized" meaning when you know or ought to know you have no right to them. The law isn't cognizant of how involved or intricate the legwork necessary to obtain access is. A similar situation obtains with the DMCA and its poorly worded prohibition of "circumvention" of "effective" anticopying measures. Is ROT-26 "effective" as a matter of law? What about ROT-13?

      You might com

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MozeeToby (1163751)

        Is it somehow more illegal to trespass someone's house if they have 5 locks on their door vs only one? Why should it be more or less illegal to do something based on how difficult it is? It is the behavior that the effort allows that is being punished, either trespassing or accessing someone else's email without permission.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by clone53421 (1310749)

        You might compare someone being charged with breaking and entering into a house, the door to which was secured with a strip of masking tape.

        Someone can be charged with breaking and entering. In fact, the door doesn’t need to be locked at all. If they even just open the door, they are breaking and entering. If the door is already open, they are only trespassing unless/until they steal something.

        • Re:As I recall (Score:5, Insightful)

          by RsG (809189) on Friday November 12, 2010 @02:40PM (#34209268)

          Thank you, someone else who gets it.

          Crime is not about how hard it was for the perpetrator to commit it. Crime is about intent, or sometimes criminal negligence. "But the door was unlocked" is not, has never been, and should not be a legal defence.

          Now, "intent" itself can sometimes be vague or fuzzy enough to leave room for doubt. You cannot be tried with trespassing on land that a reasonable person would not have known was off limits. And the balance of the law, the concept of innocence until guilt is proven, should favour the accused; if there is reasonable doubt, acquittal should be the outcome.

          But that was not the case here. There was no doubt as to the accused's guilt, both in the crime itself and the attempted cover-up. Political angles aside, this would have been criminal no matter who the victim was, or what the perp's motive.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      ...I'm fucking Kevin Mitnick.

      Fag!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jez9999 (618189)

      If that's "hacking" then I'm fucking Kevin Mitnick.

      I think Kevin Mitnick might have something to say about that.

    • Re:As I recall (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RealGrouchy (943109) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:42PM (#34208542)

      It was guessing the answer to her Security Question that was publicly available on the internet. If that's "hacking" then I'm fucking Kevin Mitnick.

      Most people's (snail) mail boxes are unlocked, but it's still mail fraud to go picking through them.

      - RG>

    • Re:As I recall (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alen (225700) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:47PM (#34208618)

      might not be hacking, but he still had no business going into her email

    • by Feyshtey (1523799)
      By this line of reasoning if I find the key to your front door hidden under your doormat, then it's acceptable for me to enter your home.
    • by arivanov (12034)

      So is the answer to the question "Should I destroy evidence". He got away lightly on this one.

  • Year and a day? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What is the point of adding a day onto the sentence?

    • by shentino (1139071)

      Probably to make sure it got counted as a felony.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Score Whore (32328)

        No, it's so to be sure that the guy qualifies for good behavior time. If someone is sentenced to a year and they are a model prisoner they will serve a year. If they are sentenced for a year and a day and are a model prisoner they will serve about ten months. In other words it's about not fucking him.

    • by sethstorm (512897)

      Sounds like something with how the crime was classified; the extra day being used to (minimally) meet any "over a year" requirement.

  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:20PM (#34208238) Homepage
    Then I wonder what punishment the guy who uncovered this [gawker.com] has waiting for him.
  • Sentence (Score:5, Informative)

    by UninformedCoward (1738488) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:23PM (#34208278)

    I am pretty sure the actual sentence was 1 year 1 day in custody; to be served at a halfway house.

    The local source - http://www.newschannel5.com/Global/story.asp?S=13490313&Call=Email&Format=HTML [newschannel5.com]

  • by Shoten (260439) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:26PM (#34208300)

    Let's face it; he hacked the email account of a Vice Presidential candidate. Regardless of how one feels about Sarah Palin (I can't stand her myself...the things she says makes me want to slam my head in a file cabinet drawer) it's not rocket science to recognize that what he did is a bit more severe (and consequence-prone) than going after your typical person. He should consider himself lucky that he only got a year, really...I figured they'd do much worse.

    • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:36PM (#34208448) Homepage
      No really how is that different to someone hacking the email of the randomer next door or anyone else?

      After all a candidate is only a candidate and anyone whose email is hacked can have their reputation ruined for the next job interview or anything else.

      If she was an actual vice president you could possibly attach some national security element to this but even that's a stretch, and giving these people extra protection will just promote the idea of government secrecy, big brother "we need to see your communication but you can't see ours" kind of thing. and there is no doubt in my mind she wouldn't fully back any kind of new mass surveillance initiative.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Schadrach (1042952)

        Even if she were an actual vice president, there's no national security element unless she was breaking the law in precisely the manner she was as governor, using a private email account to prevent things from being on the record and potentially accessible to FOIA requests.

    • I agree, I'd say he did pretty well, it could have been much worse consequences - I hold his dad partially responsible for not teaching him any tolerance for the opposing views. My own 17 year old daughter is on the complete opposite side of the political fence from myself and we have healthy debates about conservatism vs liberalism, the democrats and republicans etc. She respects my views and I respect hers - This kid was so brainwashed by his father that he felt it was OK to break into another persons e

    • Criminal law shouldn't make such a differentiation. The penalty should only be greater if the information released is specifically protected by law. e.g. corporate espionage or disclosure of state secrets. Allowing a difference here would be like saying that murderer of hoboes should receive a lighter sentence than someone who kills the same number of rich guys. In reality crimes involving powerful people are probably more likely to attract greater attention (and maybe more aggressive sentencing) but in pri

      • by Feyshtey (1523799)
        My neighbor, who happens to be a farmer, isnt likely to have anything in his email that could have national political ramifications. While I agree with your premise in principle (that all victimes be given equal consideration under the law), there are crimes which are far more damaging depending on the victim. And the law specifically allows for that variability.

        Threatening to commit bodily harm to your neighbor will definately get the local law enforcement spotlight shone on your for a while, and maybe
      • by hedwards (940851)
        That's how that works. Whenever there's a range of possible sentences, the prosecutors tend to seek tougher sentences when they value the victim than when they don't. It's both human nature as well as the natural consequence of how our judicial system is set up. It's easier to get a death sentence if the victim is valued by the jury than if it's just some random homeless person.
    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday November 12, 2010 @02:06PM (#34208862) Homepage

      I can't stand her myself...the things she says makes me want to slam my head in a file cabinet drawer

      See, this is what makes me different from you. The things she says makes me want to slame her head in a file cabinet drawer.

  • by jez9999 (618189) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:27PM (#34208318) Homepage Journal

    ... was not being in the Federal government. If he had been, his actions would've been deemed legal.

  • by jythie (914043) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:27PM (#34208320)
    So this kid gets a year in prison... but most cases like this will not even get a return call from the police. I guess it is not just 'how much justice can you afford' but 'how much your victim can afford'.
    • by abigsmurf (919188)
      You are severely misguided if you think sentencing shouldn't be influenced by who the victim is.

      I would expect someone who shot a random 5 year old to get a worse sentence than someone who shot a random 30 year old because the former crime is far worse, despite the only difference being the victim.

      If a random person's emails were hacked and posted online, they get what... 5 people reading them? No one cares about a stranger's email (especially if no CC info was in them) . Palin's a public figure, 10,0
    • by Quila (201335) on Friday November 12, 2010 @02:32PM (#34209154)

      Note he only got a misdemeanor, a slap on the wrist, for the actual computer fraud.

      The government does not take obstruction of justice lightly and tends to give stiff sentences for it.

      Aside from that, yes, an attack on an account for political gain to influence an election would reasonably bring a more severe punishment than simply doing it to see if you can. This wasn't just some kid. His dad is a powerful Democratic state legislator and was then a member of Obama's Tennessee campaign. I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't doing dad's bidding, and is taking the fall to avoid ruining dad's career. Expect to see the payoff after this clears up, likely a well-paid position in a Democratic campaign in 2012.

      Personally, I think he deserves extra time just for being stupid by using a single proxy that had a policy of turning over evidence of any illegal activity to the police. :)

    • by osgeek (239988) on Friday November 12, 2010 @02:56PM (#34209450) Homepage Journal

      I completely don't understand your viewpoint.

      Kernell increased the notoriety of the crime himself by trying to interrupt a very public political campaign. Contrary to your assertion, it isn't like Sarah Palin singled him out and sent her hounds after him. I'd be surprised if she was involved at all in the event beyond turning over evidence and cooperating with law enforcement.

      Kernell cranked the system up to 11 trying to take down a vice presidential candidate of the US... and got burned. You break the law trying to subvert a presidential election and you should get your ass handed to you.

      You might have a point if some criminal stole Sarah Palin's car without knowing who it belonged to then SHE turned the spotlight on him... but that wasn't the case at all. Kernell broke the law in such a way that brought national media attention to it. He has no one to blame but himself for the falling dominoes that he set into motion.

      • by whoop (194) on Friday November 12, 2010 @04:27PM (#34210504) Homepage

        What I don't understand from the left side of American politics is how they pick these targets for political "assassination." Obama had substantial lead over McCain in polls and such from the beginning. I could see him winning with little effort, as long as he didn't screw things up himself.

        So then McCain goes for a long shot VP choice, a woman, etc. Sarah wasn't much of a politician herself, some nobody from Alaska honestly. She came out saying your average Republican catch phrases, smaller governement, less taxes, etc. I still didn't see her as helping McCain all that much. Yet, from that moment, the left came out viciously against her, more so than they were against McCain. Who is she? She isn't anybody. Mayor/Governor in Alaska? That's not even a real state. That doesn't count. She doesn't know anything about the "real" America. McCain's old and going to die and she'll be King of the Land. Oh my, we're done fer now if they win. She's stupid too, look, she messed up two words in onne sentence! She's got too many kids. Look at that last one, she can't even breed right. Her daughter's pregnant and unwed, how's that for Republican "values" for ya.

        This cycle, it was just like that with Christine O'Donnell. Again, she had little chance from the beginning. The other guy was ahead by ten or more points much of the time. Yet, the left came right out every day with the same visceral hate. A witch! A witch I tell ya! She's stupid. A duck is stupid. Therefore she's a witch! Then the week before election, they dig up a guy who "slept" with her after one night out at bars one Halloween some years ago. See, she's a slut. She'll sleep with anybody. Republicans and their stupid values. Oh, she only slept at the guy's apartment, no sex? Oh well, she's still a slut!

        Meg Whitman. Well, that one was a little close, within five points at times. Then it's fine if Jerry's wife calls her a whore. She was one after all.

        I think this kid got wound up in this extreme ferver to demonize their opponent to the point that he thinks he'll become a hero finding out Sarah's massive number of secrets that she's discussing with people in her emails. Honestly, what are you going to find? Photos from a family reunion? The secret plans of the Bildeburgers, Illuminati, etc? Still, why not target the actual political enemies for this sort of stuff? McCain, people in much closer elections your side might lose, etc?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:27PM (#34208336)

    Rich banker gets to escape felony hit and run charges, because the judge felt "a felony charge would hurt his ability to make shit tons of money"

    http://dailybail.com/home/outrage-morgan-stanley-banker-escapes-felony-charges-for-hit.html

  • Holy shit a year? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by falldeaf (968657)
    That's a long time for making such a small mistake... There's got to be some sort of easily phrased lesson to be learned here. "If you're going to anger politically powerful people, do it anonymously" ? He should have sent all the data he found to wiki leaks then burned his computer.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Moridineas (213502)

      Really? Breaking into someone's private email and then distributing what they found -- with clearly malicious intent -- is "such a small mistake" ?

      Furthermore, when you say "He should have sent all the data he found to wiki leaks then burned his computer," that's exactly wrong! Had he not wiped his disk and tried (ineffectively!) to hide the evidence, he probably would have gotten substantially less punishment. In fact HIDING the evidence (obstruction of justice) is what got him the felony. The actual act w

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192)

        Really? Breaking into someone's private email and then distributing what they found -- with clearly malicious intent -- is "such a small mistake" ?

        Compared to the crimes committed by the Bush administration, it's a very small mistake. Compared to the crimes committed by investment bankers, it's a very small mistake. Compared to the crimes committed by BP/Transocean/Halliburton/the MMS, it's a very small mistake.

        I don't see anyone responsible for any of the above crimes facing any criminal punishment at al

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday November 12, 2010 @02:34PM (#34209178)

        Really? Breaking into someone's private email and then distributing what they found -- with clearly malicious intent -- is "such a small mistake" ?

        I gotta disagree there. I don't think his intent was malicious at all - his goal was to expose corruption. He was clearly partisan in his motives, but if that's all it takes to legally qualify for "malicious intent" then all of congress should be in jail too.

        My understanding is that Palin only got away with it because the alaskan court ruled that the state law forbidding what she had done was too ambiguous. But the intent - keeping official government business communications on the record for accountability purposes - was clearly violated, even if the letter may not have been.

  • In Related News (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:29PM (#34208374)

    In related news, Sarah Palin is still on the loose, endangering all sanity as we know it.

  • by Andy Smith (55346) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:31PM (#34208398) Homepage

    Would he have received the same sentence if he had hacked the email of a random neighbour?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by schnikies79 (788746)

      Probably not, but he should.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by silas_moeckel (234313)

        Yea because people need to go to jail for crimes that hurt nobody? He "hacked" a single email account a handful of hours of community service and nothing on his record. There is nothing to show a pattern or even any real malice intent he guessed a trivial password for haha's.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          If you have trivially-bypassed locks on your house, and someone "picks" them and walks in, are they still guilty in the United States of breaking and entering? As much as I hate to so heavily punish somebody for a harmless prank, adding "on a computer" to a crime shouldn't change it dramatically. Harm was done, and traditional breaking and entering typically carries sentences greater than what he received.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ScentCone (795499)
          He "hacked" a single email account a handful of hours of community service and nothing on his record. There is nothing to show a pattern or even any real malice intent he guessed a trivial password for haha's

          You're being every bit as disengenuous as he was. He was hacking into her account to look for dirt in an attempt to manipulate the outcome of a national election. Still, just a misdemeanor. But then he went on to deliberately obstruct the investigation, lying to investigators, attempting to hide evid
    • Welcome to the American Judiciary system.

    • by js3 (319268)

      Is random neighbour protected by the secret service? if yes then YES, if no the NO.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mapkinase (958129)

      "real-life" equivalent (snail-mail forwarding):

      http://answers.uslegal.com/civil-rights/privacy/14722/ [uslegal.com]

      A person submitting a false change of address form may be imprisoned for up to five years, or more in certain instances, plus subjected to a fine up to $250,000. The charges may be obstruction or mail, theft or mail, and/or making a false statement.

    • by osgeek (239988) on Friday November 12, 2010 @03:03PM (#34209532) Homepage Journal

      Probably not.

      1. When you commit a crime in an attempt to make a presidential election go your way, you bring a lot of media attention to your doorstep. The justice system will usually make sure to prosecute you fully when everyone is watching.

      2. Hacking your neighbor's email affects your neighbor and a few other people. Impacting a presidential election with your unlawful actions affects a nation. Shouldn't the impact of your crime play a role in punishment?

  • if it were you or I?

    I refuse to take sides on a political debate, but just because someone is a big figure in politics doesn't mean they should get special treatment. I guess that's why they have their lobbyist groups though.
    • just because someone is a big figure in politics doesn't mean they should get special treatment.

      I guess the Secret Service should stick to chasing counterfeiters?

      • Well that depends who's in office... If its the president I don't like, then... sure! Heh - just kidding.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:35PM (#34208440)

    This guy just got lucky and guessed a password. But he acted against a conservative in Tennessee, so he got a year in prison. James O'Keefe [wikipedia.org] actually tried to physically bug the telephone of a sitting U.S. Senator. But O'Keefe acted against a liberal in Louisiana, so he walked with probation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by osgeek (239988)

      I wouldn't have minded seeing O'Keefe do some prison time. He's a tool, but I don't see how this is a liberal/conservative issue. There were differences:

      O'Keefe didn't actually bug the telephone. All they could actually pin on him was entering a federal building under false pretenses with the INTENT of doing more. It's pretty well established legally that intent is not punished the same as committing the crime. Admitting to the intention to tamper with the phones was probably a part of his plea deal.

  • by Maclir (33773) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:37PM (#34208466) Journal

    What punishment would the guilty person get? I'll bet you London to brick it wouldn't even get to court.

    One law for the power elite, and the rest of us can bugger off.

  • by theodp (442580) on Friday November 12, 2010 @01:40PM (#34208518)

    HP Pretexting Charges Dismissed [informationweek.com]: "Charges against defendants in the Hewlett-Packard pretexting case have been dismissed."

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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