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Student convicted of hacking Sarah Palin e-mail account

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David Kernell's lawyer said his actions amounted to a college prank

A jury in Tennessee has convicted a former student of hacking the e-mail account of Sarah Palin.

David Kernell, 22, was found guilty of obstructing justice and unauthorised access to a computer.

The son of a Democratic lawmaker, he faces up to 20 years in prison for the first charge and one year for the charge of hacking.

He broke into Mrs Palin's e-mail account during her 2008 Republican campaign for the US vice-presidency.

Kernell was cleared of a charge of wire fraud.

'Political intrigue'

The jury were unable to agree on a verdict on a charge of identity fraud, for which he could face another trial.

Sarah Palin (14 April 2010)
Mrs Palin posted a statement on Facebook, welcoming the verdict

Wade Davies, Kernell's lawyer, had said his client's actions amounted to a college prank, rather than a crime.

Kernell was a student at the University of Tennessee at the time.

But prosecutors said it was an attempt to influence a national election through illegal means.

The jury took four days to reach a decision.

Mrs Palin, a former governor of Alaska, posted a statement on her Facebook page saying she was "thankful that the jury thoroughly and carefully weighed the evidence and issued a just verdict".

"As Watergate taught us, we rightfully reject illegally breaking into candidates' private communications for political intrigue in an attempt to derail an election," it read.

Mr Davies said in a statement that Kernell, whose father is Tennessee Democratic representative Mike Kernell, was "grateful for the time and consideration the jury gave to his case".

In a 30-minute testimony last Friday, Mrs Palin said that Kernell had compromised the main way she had communicated with her family during the campaign by breaking into her Yahoo e-mail account.

Earlier this week, her daughter Bristol testified that she had received harassing calls and text messages after screen shots of e-mails from the account revealed her mobile phone number.

A sentencing date has not yet been set.

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