The fate of David Kernell is now in the hands of a Tennessee jury, and, presuming he is found guilty of a crime, here's hoping that the judicial system there will properly balance the resultant need for punishment, deterrence and proportionality.
By my reckoning, that should earn the 22-year-old something more than a wrist slap but less than jail time.
Kernell, as most of you know, stands accused of guessing his way into the Yahoo e-mail account of Sarah Palin -- then the Republican vice presidential candidate and governor of Alaska - and spreading his findings through an Internet chat board. Kernell's father is a longtime Democratic state legislator in Tennessee, which makes for a potent political cocktail that has had the national media on a bender for the past week.
The prosecution's depiction of a savvy political trickster determined to derail Palin's candidacy seems exaggerated, at best, and at worst a consequence of his father's choice of profession. And while the defense portrait of a youthful prank gone awry understates the severity of Kernell's actions and overlooks the fact he was 20 at the time, it still rings much closer to the truth.
If justice is to be served here, the jury will convict Kernell of something that will leave the judge enough discretion to punish the guy without putting him in prison or ruining the rest of his life. It's difficult to be confident of that outcome, though, given that Kernell is facing four felonies that could land him in prison for 50 years.