Palin testifies in hacking trial

Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2010

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Sarah Palin testified Friday about the disruption and hurt caused when her e-mail account was hacked during the 2008 presidential campaign and said outside court that there should be consequences for what happened.

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She declined to say if she thinks conviction of the 22-year-old defendant should lead to prison or if community service would be punishment enough. "That's up to the judge," she said.

Former University of Tennessee student David Kernell, the 22-year-old son of a Democratic state lawmaker, is charged with hacking the Yahoo! e-mail account as Palin campaigned in 2008 as the Republican vice presidential candidate.

Kernell faces up to 50 years in federal prison if convicted of identity theft, mail fraud and two other felony charges. His lawyer has said the case is a prank and Kernell had no criminal intent.

Asked outside the courtroom if she thought the charges against Kernell were excessive, Palin said, "I don't know, but I do think there should be consequences for bad behavior."

As Palin walked to the witness stand, some jurors smiled at her.

The former Alaska governor smiled almost constantly through 30 minutes of testimony as she told jurors about the disruption the hacking caused for her family and close friends when their e-mails and phone numbers were publicized on the Internet.

The posting of family photos and e-mails on the web fueled rumors that Palin and her husband had affairs and that her youngest child, Trig, was not really her son, she said in court.

Palin's husband, Todd, sat in the courtroom as she testified. Their daughter, Bristol, told jurors earlier this week that she got harassing calls and text messages after screen shots of e-mail from the account revealed her cell phone number. A former Palin aide also described receiving vulgar e-mails.

Kernell isn't accused of the harassment, but prosecutors say he broke into Palin's e-mail account in September 2008 by correctly providing her birth date and ZIP code and correctly answering that she met her husband in Wasilla.

Kernell's attorney, Wade Davies, argued the password was obtained using information that was publicly available, including where she met her husband.

"It wasn't a secret to me," Palin said. "I don't know if the rest of the world knew it or not."

Palin testified during cross-examination that she could not recall being warned to change her Yahoo! e-mail account. That differed from earlier testimony by a former Palin aide in Alaska, Frank Bailey, who set up the account at Palin's request and said he had previously warned Palin to make changes because the password could be easily discovered.

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