Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, taking the stand this morning in the trial of a former college student accused of breaking into her Yahoo! e-mail account during the 2008 presidential campaign, said the incident caused "disruption" and wasn't "right."
As her husband Todd looked on, Palin told jurors she first discovered her account had been breached when watching a TV news report from the campaign trail in Michigan. The Secret Service and a campaign aide later confirmed it was true, she said.
Palin testified that her "gov.palin" e-mail account and red Blackberry were her primary means of keeping in touch with her family in Alaska as she campaigned as the Republican vice presidential nominee. She said the breach caused a huge "disruption" in her family members' personal and professional lives.
"Friends and family had to change their contacts and e-mails," she told reporters outside the courtroom of the fallout from the hack job. "It's not right, it's not legal, it's not fair and decent...I don't think an illegal action like this was a college prank."
Kernell, the son of a Democratic state representative from Memphis, is charged with identity theft, wire fraud, computer fraud and obstruction of justice. He faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted.
Earlier this week Palin's oldest daughter Bristol, whose pregnancy took center stage during the 2008 campaign, testified that she received unsolicited phone calls and text messages, some threatening, after the alleged hacker exposed her cell phone number.
Kernell's attorneys described the incident as a "silly prank." In a federal court in Knoxville, Tenn., Tuesday, they argued that their client didn't have a criminal intent, and that he merely guessed his way into her e-mail account.
"It took less time than the prosecution's opening statement," defense attorney Wade Davies said.
Kernell's roommate told jurors that he was in their room that night in September 2008, when Kernell came in excited, claiming he had gained control of a Yahoo e-mail account that belonged to Palin and had figured out the answers to the security questions.
"He definitely talked about how he didn't believe in what she wanted to do," David Omiecinski, Kernell's roommate at the University of Tennessee, said, although adding that Kernell said nothing about hurting Palin.
Kernell shared Palin's private information with the world, including a cell phone number that belonged to her daughter, Bristol, according to prosecutors. He was arrested in October 2008.
Kernell's roommate said the defendant bragged openly about what he did. But Davies told jurors that his client didn't attempt to get rid of any evidence on his laptop and that he cried when he found out that the FBI was investigating him.
"He really couldn't have done more to let people know what he had done than he did," Davies said.
Palin's family friend Ivey Frye told jurors that the hacker sent "vile" and "vulgar" e-mails to Palin's children and other relatives and friends, and that all their e-mail addresses were exposed.