David Kernell, the 22-year-old son of a Democratic Tennessee lawmaker has been convicted on two charges in the hacking of Sarah Palin’s e-mail account. According to WSMV, the federal court jury reached its verdict Friday against David Kernell after four days of deliberation. He was found guilty of obstruction of justice and unauthorized access to a computer, but was acquitted on a charge of wire fraud. The jury was deadlocked on a charge of identify theft. Prosecutors reserve the right to have a new trial on that charge. The charge of obstructing an investigation has a maximum 20-year prison sentence.
The jury of six women and six men told U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips earlier Friday they reached unanimous verdicts on three other charges against Kernell but were still deadlocked on a count of identity theft.
Phillips told the jury he understood they were having difficulties with the case.
“Each of you ought to seriously reconsider your positions,” he told them.
But he also said there was no rush to reach a verdict.
Defense attorney Wade Davies has said Kernell intruded on Palin’s e-mail in a prank. Prosecutors said he was trying to damage Palin’s campaign.
Phillips told jurors Thursday they could announce their decisions on charges of wire fraud, unauthorized access to a computer and obstruction of justice but they chose to wait until finishing their deliberations. The judge said the case was several steps away from possibly declaring a hung jury on the identity theft charge even after the panel expressed some frustration in a note that said, “some jurors feel that not all jurors are following the jury instructions.”
The jurors listened to technical testimony by an FBI computer forensics specialist and other government witnesses and are working with hundreds of evidence documents. Palin and her daughter, Bristol, testified that the hacking caused personal hardships after telephone numbers and family photos were posted online.
Federal agents seized Kernell’s laptop computer at a Knoxville apartment in September 2008.
While Kernell appeared encouraged in the courtroom and some of his friends showed up late Thursday afternoon, verdicts at criminal trials with extended jury deliberations are not predictable.
“Some people say if it’s a quick verdict that means the evidence was clear and it’s a quick conviction,” said Scott Burns, director of the National District Attorneys Association. “Some people say the government’s case was not well presented and it’s not guilty.”