Judge in Palin hacking case upholds warrants

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2010

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - A federal magistrate dealt the man charged with hacking Sarah Palin's e-mail another pre-trial setback Friday by refusing to dismiss search warrants for Internet provider records.

U.S. Magistrate Clifford Shirley Jr. in a decision Friday denied the motion filed on behalf of David C. Kernell, 22, whose father is a Democratic state legislator from Memphis.

Defense attorney Wade Davies and the chief prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Weddle, did not answer telephone messages seeking comment.

Authorities say Kernell was a University of Tennessee student who gained access to the former Alaska governor's personal Yahoo e-mail account when she was running mate to Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Kernell is free on bond, charged with computer fraud, unlawful electronic transmission of material outside Tennessee and intentionally accessing Palin's e-mail account without authorization. His trial is set for April 20 in Knoxville.

Davies contended that the magistrate overstepped his authority by issuing warrants beyond the East Tennessee federal court district. Yahoo is located in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Prosecutors said the warrants were proper under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Shirley said in the decision that in 2001 a change in federal law granted such authority to a "court with jurisdiction over the offense under investigation."

"This revised language was in effect at the time the warrants in this matter were issued," the judge's ruling said.

The judge last week ruled on a separate motion that the government could charge Kernell with trying to obstruct the investigation before it even began.

Weddle previously said an unfavorable ruling on the search warrants would have an impact but the government "would still have a case."

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