Justice is being served against the kid who allegedly hacked into Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account, right?
David Kernell, the 20-year-old son of Democratic Tennessee state representative Mike Kernell and a student at the University of Tennessee, was indicted on a charge of accessing a computer without authorization and entered a plea of not guilty in U.S. District Court today. He was released on his own recognizance but is ordered back in court on Dec. 2 with a trial set for Dec. 16. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
As part of his release, a few other restrictions were imposed. Here's where it gets good:
- A ban on owning a computer.
- Restriction of Internet use to e-mail and college coursework only.
- No contact with Gov. Palin or her family
- No travel outside eastern Tennessee without approval from a probation officer.
Is this justice? I can maybe see the thing about owning a computer - though isn't that what they do to suspected pedophiles? (And did anyone check to see if the kid has an iPhone?) I can even understand the Internet limitations - taking away MySpace and YouTube for most 20-year-olds is like cutting off an arm. The Palin stay-away order is a gimme. But then there's this thing about leaving eastern Tennessee. What's that all about?
OK, the kid committed a crime. Yes. A lot of kids (of all ages) commit similar acts that might be seen as even more harmful - such as creating a panic on Wall Street (like those guys need anymore problems.) Was Kernell really deserving of the imposed conditions? Or was that just a way to teach this kid a lesson? What would have happened to some kid if he hacked into my personal Yahoo account? Or yours?
One other interesting thing to note: the exact language of the indictment (PDF) alleges that David Kernell "intentionally and without authorization accessed a protected computer by means of an interstate communication and thereby obtained information, and did aid and abet in same."
I hate to split hairs here, but whose computer did he access? Isn't Yahoo Mail stored in the cloud or did Palin have her mail stored on a client on her own personal machine? Again, splitting hairs about the language of the charge - but people get off on technicalities all the time. And then there's the other charge of unlawful access to stored communications, which could be harder to fight. Last month, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in its blog, found a little loophole that could impact the ability of the Department of Justice to charge this kid for a violation of the Stored Communications Act.