Palin e-mail snoop imprisoned, despite judge's recommendation

David Kernell begins sentence in Kentucky prison

David Kernell

The 23-year-old Tennessee man convicted of illegally accessing Sarah Palin's Yahoo e-mail account during the 2008 presidential campaign has begun his one-year sentence in a Kentucky prison, despite a recommendation from the trial judge that he serve the time in a halfway house.

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From a BBC News story posted this morning:

During a hearing in November, Judge Thomas Phillips indicated that Mr Kernell's sentence of one year and one day should be served at a halfway house to reflect the case's "unique circumstances."

"Even if the defendant serves his sentence at a halfway house, this combined with a criminal conviction is significant punishment," he said at the time, adding that it would mark "a sufficient restriction of the defendant's liberty".

The US Bureau of Prisons, however, has decided to make Mr Kernell serve out his term in the low-security prison camp nearly 300 miles from his home in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Prison officials declined to explain why they decided to imprison Kernell instead of following the judge's recommendation, according to the BBC.

Kernell began his sentence Jan. 10. Here's how the Kentucky prison is described:

The Federal Correctional Institution of Ashland, Kentucky, is located five miles southwest of Ashland in Summit, Kentucky. The institution houses approximately 1,200 men in functional units that range from a dormitory type building to the regular cellblock type. Inmates are assigned to their units according to existing policy. Ashland is a low security institution designed for adult males with sentence limitations.

On April 30, Kernell was found guilty of misdemeanor computer fraud and of obstruction of justice, a felony. He was found not guilty of wire fraud and the jury deadlocked on a fourth charge of identity theft.

Kernell was a 20-year-old student at the University of Tennessee when he accessed Palin's Yahoo e-mail account by guessing the password with the help of information found on Wikipedia. He then changed the password and helped spread the new one on the Internet. The case drew international attention because it involved not only Palin, then the Republican nominee for vice president, but Kernell's father, Michael Kernell, a longtime Democratic state legislator, as well as the notorious Internet message board 4chan and controversial whistleblower Web site Wikileaks, both of which were involved in circulating the e-mail and pictures obtained from Palin's account.

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