Sarah Palin hacker Kernell gets one-year sentence

David Kernell hacked Sarah Palin's Yahoo account during the 2008 presidential election

The former college student who guessed his way into Sarah Palin's Yahoo e-mail account during the 2008 U.S. presidential election was sentenced to a year and a day in prison Friday.

David Kernell's lawyers had been hoping for probation only; federal prosecutors had asked for an 18-month sentence.

The judge in the case recommended that Kernell serve his time at a halfway house rather than federal prison, but that decision is up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Following his one-year sentence, Kernell must serve three years' probation.

Kernell, a 20-year-old college student at the time of the incident, got into Palin's account by guessing answers to the security questions used by Yahoo to reset the account's password. In chat logs, Kernell said he was hoping to find information that would "derail" her 2008 vice presidential election campaign.

Palin was then governor of Alaska, and her critics thought she may have been conducting state business via the Yahoo account, in order to sidestep Alaska's open records law. Kernell found no such evidence after examining her Yahoo account.

He did, however, post the account's new password -- "popcorn" -- to the 4chan discussion board, and the contents of the account were eventually made public.

In her 2009 autobiography, "Going Rogue," Palin called the incident "the most disruptive" of the campaign.

Kernell was convicted of unauthorized computer access and obstruction of justice on April 30, after a weeklong trial that included testimony from Palin herself. But his lawyers had argued for leniency, citing their client's "youth and emotional condition."

"The public humiliation, trial, and felony conviction are enough to deter any further violations of the law," his lawyers said in court filings.

Kernell is the son of Tennessee Democrat assemblyman Mike Kernell. Neither David Kernell nor his lawyer could be reached immediately for comment.

He was sentenced by Judge Thomas Phillips of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, in Knoxville.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is

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