Kernell guilty on 2 counts in Palin email trial, mistrial on 1

Kernell guilty on 2 counts in Palin email trial, mistrial on 1

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David Kernell David Kernell

By HARLOW SUMERFORD
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Federal jurors found David Kernell guilty Friday on two counts for breaking into Sarah Palin's email account, but their deadlock on another count led to a mistrial.

Jurors also found Kernell not guilty on one count.

The verdicts are:

  • No verdict on count one - felony identity theft
  • Not guilty on count two - felony wire fraud
  • Guilty of a misdemeanor charge of computer intrusion on count three - instead of felony computer fraud
  • Guilty of felony obstruction of justice
  • The judge declared a mistrial on count one. The government will decide next week whether to retry the case.

    Kernell's sentencing will follow the decision on the retrial.

    Kernell and his attorney, Wade Davies, had no comment Friday as they left court.

    Davies later released a statement saying Kernell "...is grateful for the time and consideration the jury gave to his case." 

    Deliberations background

    Jurors said Thursday afternoon they were unanimous on three of the four counts against Kernell, but they deadlocked on the count for identity theft.

    Some jurors said others aren't following jury instructions and that caused the deadlock.

    The judge gave the jurors the option to deliver a partial verdict on the three unanimous counts, then continue deliberating on the other. They chose to keep deliberating instead.

    The attorneys said they've never been involved in a partial verdict trial.

    The defense asked for a mistrial on the identity theft count, but the judge denied the motion.

    Around 11:40 a.m. Thursday, the jurors asked to see federal laws regarding computer fraud and wire fraud as mentioned in the identity theft count.

    The judge gave the jurors copies of a portion of the laws, although the defense thought they should be given a copy of the entire law.

    Jurors got the case about 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, and the judge dismissed them for the day around 4:40.

    They spent Wednesday deliberating from 9:00 a.m. until around 4:15.

    Thursday they deliberated from around 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

    They came back with their verdict Friday around 3:00 p.m.

    The jury wasn't sequestered in this trial. A jury of eight men and six women heard the case, but two of them were alternates.

    Case background

    Kernell was charged with four felonies, including identity theft, wire fraud, computer fraud and obstruction of justice. The maximum possible penalty was 50 years in prison.

    Kernell, now 22, is accused of gaining access to Palin's email when he was a student at the University of Tennessee in 2008.

    Palin was governor of Alaska at the time and the running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

    Investigators say Kernell gained access to Palin's email by providing her birth date and zip code to Yahoo's password retrieval system. Kernell correctly answered questions for the password retrieval.

    In closing arguments Monday, Kernell's attorney said what he did was a prank, and he had no criminal intent.

    The prosecution told the jury that a prank is playful and funny, but there was nothing funny about what Kernell did.


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