Palin e-mail snoop got prison because he's too smart?

Prison official tells judge that halfway house is no place for a college man

David Kernell

So now we know the real reason - or at least the official reason - why the college student who snooped into Sarah Palin's Yahoo e-mail account got sent to prison instead of the halfway house recommended by the judge who oversaw his trial and conviction.

It's primarily because he was a college student. And, as if that's not reason enough to ignore the judge and ship the young man off to the slammer, it was also determined that David Kernell - 22 at the time of his crime - is guilty of having a supportive family.

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According to a story by the Knoxville News Sentinel:

(U.S. Bureau of Prisons) Chief Jose Santana wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips that he could not honor the judge's request that Kernell spend his sentence of one day shy of a year at the Midway Rehabilitation Center because there are too many needier felons waiting in line.

"Our agency contracts (halfway house) bed space for inmates who have a greater need ... such as those with limited job skills/resources and family and community support," Santana wrote. "Mr. Kernell has attended three years of college and has the support of his family."

That's the official word anyway; you can read the letter here.

But what do you think the odds are that Kernell would have been the very first convicted felon to have graced that halfway house while carrying the dual scourge of having both a college education and a loving family? I'm thinking slim to none.

Either way, those of us who had been arguing over whether Kernell's actual crime was serious enough to warrant prison have been arguing about something that simply didn't weigh into the decision, according to the head of the agency that made the decision. (Kernell's felony was attempting to cover his electronic tracks once the FBI was on to him.)

We should have been arguing over whether the relatively well educated and well loved are entitled to the same discretionary leniency from a sentencing judge as your hardened criminal who dropped out of high school and has lost favor with his family.

Furthermore, it seems that Prisons Chief Santana has made the classic mistake of conflating college attendance with "job skills" and, well, smarts.

He seems to be overestimating this particular college man.

Think about it: Kernell, whose father is a longtime Democratic state lawmaker in Tennessee, decided it would be a good idea to guess his way into the e-mail account of a candidate for vice president of the United States. ... Not very bright.

Then he thought it would be a hoot to change Palin's password and pass the new on to the merry pranksters who hang out at the 4chan message board. ... Dumb.

And it wasn't at all difficult to catch him.

I could go on, but let's just say David Kernell seems plenty dense enough to qualify for a halfway house.

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