David C. Kernell, the 20-year-old son of Tennessee state representative Mike Kernell, plead not guilty on Wednesday to a single count of unauthorized access to an e-mail account.
The charge returned by a grand jury a day earlier and unsealed on Wednesday carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The three-page indictment alleges that Kernell, who had on occasion used the nickname "rubico" and "rubico10," illegally accessed Alaskan Governor and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo e-mail account, firstname.lastname@example.org. In statements online, someone using the "rubico" handle had claimed responsibility for the attack and had posted the documents to the Internet via Wikileaks.
"Cyber crime is the FBI's top criminal investigative priority," Richard Lambert, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Knoxville Field Division, said in a statement announcing the charges. "We would like to thank all of the internet service providers and others who partnered with us to bring this matter to a quick and successful resolution."
The hack of Palin's e-mail account came after the media speculated on the degree to which Palin used private e-mail accounts for Alaskan state business. In online postings, "Rubico" had said that he had found nothing untoward in her e-mail messages, which he gained access to by guessing the answers to her security questions. While prosecutors have charges Kernell with a felony, SecurityFocus commentator and attorney Mark Rasch maintains that the actual crime is likely only a misdemeanor.
On Wednesday, Kernell pleaded not guilty, according to media reports, and was released without a bail requirement. His trial date is set for December.
If you have tips or insights on this topic, please contact SecurityFocus.
Posted by: Robert Lemos