The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday said that David C. Kernell, 20, the University of Tennessee student tied by Internet sleuths to the hacking of Alaska governor Sarah Palin's Yahoo Mail account, has been indicted.
A federal grand jury in Knoxville, Tenn., indicted Kernell on Tuesday for intentionally accessing Palin's e-mail account without authorization. The indictment alleges that Kernell reset the account's password by answering several password recovery security questions, that he read Palin's e-mail, made screenshots, and that he posted that information and the account's password on a public Web site.
Kernell, the son of Tennessee State Rep. Mike Kernell, a Democrat, faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release if convicted.
In contrast to the recent "failure of citizen journalism," when an Internet user's false report that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had suffered a heart attack led to a decline in Apple's stock, citizen forensics pointed to Kernell's possible involvement in the Palin e-mail hack long before the legal system reached the same conclusion.
Days after the breach was disclosed in mid-September, bloggers had identified an association between the alias "rubico" and Kernell. The indictment alleges that Kernell used the online nicknames "rubico" and "rubico10."
According to The Tennessean, Kernell was arraigned on Wednesday, arriving at the courthouse in shackles and handcuffs. He was released without bond. Under the terms of his release: he cannot leave the Eastern District of Tennessee without permission; he cannot have a computer, though he can access e-mail and the Internet for class work; and he cannot have any contact with Governor Palin or her family.
The trial date is scheduled for December 16.