ID theft retrial in Palin hacking hinges on appeal

Posted: Sunday, May 09, 2010

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Prosecutors say a Tennessee man convicted of two federal charges in the hacking of Sarah Palin's e-mail account would be retried on an identity theft charge that left a jury deadlocked only if a defense request for a retrial is granted.

David Kernell, 22, was found guilty April 30 in federal court in Knoxville of obstruction of justice and unauthorized access to a computer, but acquitted of a wire fraud charge for hacking Palin's account as she campaigned on the Republican ticket in 2008. The jury deadlocked on an identity theft charge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Weddle on Friday noted defense motions requesting a retrial. He said that only if a new trial were granted on either of the two charges resulting in conviction, the identity theft case also would be retried.

Defense attorney Wade Davies declined comment Friday about his motions for a retrial. During the trial he made motions for a mistrial and now has numerous appeals pending before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips, who presided over the nine-day trial in which Palin was the star witness, has not scheduled a sentencing date nor a hearing on the motions.

The charge of obstruction carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and unauthorized access to a computer is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum one-year sentence.

Davies told jurors that the hack amounted to a college prank, not a crime. Kernell was a student at the University of Tennessee at the time. But prosecutors argued that it was a more serious effort to damage Palin's political campaign.

Palin and her daughter Bristol testified at trial about harassment and disruption they suffered after some e-mail was posted online showing personal cell phone numbers.

Kernell was never accused of the harassing calls and texts.



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