Kernell may get halfway house time for hacking Palin's email

Former UT student may get time in half way house for hacking Palin's email

Posted: Updated:
David Kernell David Kernell

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Although former University of Tennessee student David Kernell was sentenced to federal custody for hacking Sarah Palin's email account, the judge wants him to serve it at a Knoxville half way house.

U.S. District Thomas Phillips sentenced Kernell, 23, Friday morning in federal court in Knoxville to one year and one day in custody, followed by three years of probation.

The judge's request to the Bureau of Prisons would put Kernell at the Midway Rehabilitation Center at 1515 E Magnolia Avenue. The bureau will make the final decision and decide when the sentence begins.

Pellissippi State Community College, where Kernell is now attending school, is across the street from Midway. Kernell will likely continue his studies and receive treatment for depression.

Kernell apologized to the Palin family in court saying, "For the rest of my life I will be ashamed and feel guilty for what I have done."

Judge Phillips gave Kernell a break on his sentencing due to the odd circumstances of his case, which was tried in April.

The jurors could not reach a verdict on a count of felony identity theft and they acquitted Kernell on a charge of felony wire fraud.

However, Kernell was convicted on charges of misdemeanor computer intrusion and felony obstruction of justice.

During Friday's court proceedings, Judge Phillips rejected a request for probation by defense attorney Wade Davies as well as the federal government's request for an 18-month prison term for Kernell.

The judge said he thought both requests were too extreme, but he found Kernell's actions "childish" and "insensitive." He also said the punishment should make others think twice.

Kernell and his attorney left court quickly and did not speak with the media.

Assistant U.S. attorney Greg Weddle said he's pleased with the sentence.

"The judge clearly reviewed all of the submissions by all of the parties. Of course he sat through the trial and knew all of the trial evidence and sentenced the defendant to what he believed was the appropriate sentence under the law," Weddle said.

Kernell was not taken into custody Friday since his sentencing start date has not been determined yet.

Kernell was arrested at age 20 in 2008 for hacking into the email of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. He posted screenshots of Palin's emails and other personal information to a public website. He also posted the new account password he had created.

Palin and her daughter, Bristol, both testified at the trial that the hacking caused their family emotional distress.

Davies contended in motions filed with the court that Kernell used publicly available information to guess his way into the email in a prank.

Prosecutors said in their filing the hacking was motivated by Palin's status as a governor and candidate.

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