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Palin webmail hacker conviction upheld

More than a prank

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The conviction of a former University of Tennessee student for breaking into Sarah Palin's webmail account during the 2008 presidential election campaign has been upheld.

David Kernell was found guilty of computer hacking and obstruction of justice at a trial in April, during which he was acquitted of identity theft and wire fraud charges. During the trial, the former Alaska governor and Republican VP candidate testified that the hack caused emotional distress as well as disrupting her election campaign.

Lawyers for Kernell appealed against the conviction for obstruction of justice on the grounds that Kernell tried to delete evidence of his misconduct in a panic and before federal authorities had even launched an inquiry. They further argued that Kernell 's successful attempt to guess Palin's webmail password reset question and break into her account before posting extracted emails online was little more than a college prank gone wrong.

US District Judge Thomas Phillips rejected both these arguments in upholding the two convictions last Thursday. The ruling still leaves the possibility of a further appeal by Kernell's legal team before a sentencing hearing, scheduled for 29 October. Defence lawyers will hope to secure probation if the case goes that far although federal sentencing guidelines suggest Kernell ought to be sent to jail for somewhere between 15 to 21 months, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. ®

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