Court Affirms Palin Hacker Obstruction of Justice Conviction - U.S. Sixth Circuit
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Court Affirms Palin Hacker Obstruction of Justice Conviction

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals showed no mercy for Sarah Palin hacker David Kernell on Monday.

A three-judge panel affirmed Kernell’s obstruction of justice conviction this morning, finding that there was sufficient evidence to support the charge, reports the Associated Press.

Kernell was a student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville during the 2008 election, when he read a New York Times report that the Republican candidate for vice-president frequently used her personal email address, gov.palin@yahoo.com, for official business. That’s when trouble began.

Using the "forgotten password" reset feature, Kernell used publicly available information and a lucky guess to gain access to Palin's Yahoo! email account. He then reset the password, and posted account screenshots, Palin family photos, and the new password to a 4chan.org message board, allowing any reader to access the account.

Shortly thereafter, Kernell returned to 4chan.org to brag about how he had hacked Palin's account, and claimed to have deleted information from his computer out of fear of being investigated for the incident. Later, computer forensic examinations revealed that Kernell had taken numerous actions to remove information from the computer relating to his access to the Palin email account.

Kernell was ultimately indicted for, and convicted of, obstruction of justice for deleting the information on his computer in violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. He appealed the conviction to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming there was not sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding.

For the government to support Kernell's obstruction conviction under Sarbanes-Oxley, it had to show that Kernell knowingly deleted or altered the information on his computer with the intent to impede, obstruct or influence an investigation that he contemplated at the time of the deletion or alteration. Despite Kernell's claim that "nothing that is written on the [I]nternet can be taken seriously," his own message board posts supported his conviction.

The Sixth Circuit noted that in a 4chan.org post, "Kernell expressly states that he deleted the information on his computer out of a fear that the FBI would find it, plainly showing that he took his actions with the intent to hinder an investigation," reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Though David Kernell has completed his sentence for the obstruction of justice charge, his attorney says he will ask for an en banc rehearing before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the News Sentinel.

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