By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
9th March 2009
A University of Tennessee student accused of illegally breaking into the
email account of Alaska governor Sarah Palin has been hit with three new
felony charges in connection with the case.
David Kernell on Monday pleaded not guilty to the new charges, which
include fraud, unlawful electronic transmission of material outside
Tennessee and attempts to conceal records to impede an FBI
investigation. Previously, he was charged with a single felony count of
unauthorized access of a protected computer.
The new counts come as defense attorneys not involved in the case have
roundly criticized the soundness of the the previous charge. Under US
law, unauthorized access of a protected computer should be charged as a
misdemeanor except when it's used to further a separate crime.
Prosecutors had argued that the other crime was the unauthorized access
of Palin's email account. That prompted critics to argue prosecutors
were applying circular reasoning.
In September, while Palin was the Republican vice presidential
candidate, Kernell used publicly available information to reset her
Yahoo! email account, according to an indictment filed in the case.
Prosecutors followed a string of breadcrumbs Kernell allegedly dropped,
including the sloppy use of an anonymous proxy service and a
first-person account left on hacker website 4chan.org.
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