Persecution vs. Prosecution

The case against young David Kernell needs adult supervision

When it comes to the Internet, the attitude too often is “can I do it” rather than “should I do it.”

Download free music? Hell yeah. Watch bootleg movies. Sure. If you can do it, why not?

David Kernell is accused of guessing Sarah Palin’s password, accessing her Yahoo e-mail account, and reading her personal e-mail. Is it wrong? Most assuredly. If guilty, should he be punished? Of course. Was he stupid? Yes.

When you were a college student, did you ever do anything stupid? When your kids were college students, did they ever do anything stupid? This matter should have been settled long ago, but it hasn’t been settled because Gov. Sarah Palin was running for vice-president. I also suspect it has dragged on because David Kernell’s father is long-time Democratic legislator state Rep. Mike Kernell from Memphis. All sorts of conspiracy theories are thus engendered.

Young Kernell is charged with identity theft. He’s charged with wire fraud. He’s charged with obstruction of justice. This laundry list of felonies was added after the fact. The charges are all out of proportion to the alleged act. The criminal justice system is supposed to be about just that—justice. It is not supposed to be used to make an example of people, to satisfy a political agenda, or to satisfy the passions of the mob.

Do we really want the feds deciding that logging on with someone else’s name is identity theft?

This is not the crime of the century. Some level-headed adults need to sit down and work out a plea that involves a fine and community service and let the kid get on with his life. Gov. Palin resigned last week to get on with her life, and on the list of sins committed against her last year, this one ranks toward the bottom.

You will recall that young political operative Tyler Harber got access to the Republican Party chair’s e-mails, including some to political columnists Georgiana Vines, Sandra Clark, and yours truly. He printed them out and turned them over to County Mayor Mike Ragsdale. In the ensuing scandal, the private e-mails were posted on the News Sentinel website.

The local district attorney couldn’t find a crime and no one was ever arrested or charged. And the case also involved a county computer being used for political activities.

(Given the number of reported misdeeds in county government in recent years, one wonders if District Attorney General Randy Nichols could recognize a crime if it bit him in the butt.)

I don’t agree with Mike Kernell politically, but he is one of the most respected members of the General Assembly. He is also one of the most long-serving representatives. He is vice-chair of the House Government Operations Committee. There is irony in the fact that his being a Democratic politician leads to the theory that this was some sort of Democratic plot to embarrass Palin. But because of the political implications of the case, he is handicapped in trying to help his son. Any move he makes to help could be misinterpreted.

If it were you or me, we would be jumping up and down on the prosecutor’s desk and holding press conferences screaming about injustice toward our son. But Kernell has to stay hands-off and trust young David’s attorney.

Another irony is that there is now a Democratic-controlled Justice Department. Kernell is being prosecuted by big guns from Washington. They may be reluctant to settle the case because of an “appearance of impropriety.”

Kernell was originally charged with a misdemeanor. It was an appropriate charge.

The punishment should fit the crime. But the charge should reflect the crime.

© 2009 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 7

powert writes:

Give him the chair.

daveprince writes:

"Kernell was initally charged with a misdemeanor. It was an appropriate charge."

As I recall, Kernell was initially charged with two redundant misdemeanors which were wrapped up in a neat little package by USDoJ into one felony charge.

That charge was later revised in a superseding indictment, possibly because the infinite loop created by the aforementioned redundancies threatened to bluescreen the prosecution's case.

I'd throw some links in here for further perusal, but MP's comments code seems to return garbage when I try.

Maldonado writes:

Isn't the central issue here that Gov. Palin was using this email address to discuss state business? Now, from what I can see, Alaska law allows a governor to claim executive privilege if she is seeking advice from her aides in her communications, but that is heavily qualified.
If those communications are requested, they must be reviewed by a third party who then has to explain what the communications were about and why the governor is claiming executive privilege. But all of this assumes that the governor is using her state email address to begin with, rather than skirting the records request issue entirely by using an address that journalists, legislators, and her constituents may not even know about.
Dave is right. What this kid did does not legally qualify as "hacking." I would go a step further and say that what he did qualifies as heroic.

daveprince writes:

The screencaps I found way back when consisted of what appeared to be a page from /b/, a couple of family photos, and an address list or two. Don't know what else is floating out there or what wasn't leaked (obviously).

I do know that an Alaska Superior Court judge did order that account and a few others to be preserved pending investigation (October 2008), so there's that.

Maldonado writes:

gawker.com/photogallery/palinyahooemail/

This shows the contact list, which includes Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell and several of her aides. In particular the first screenshot, where she appears to be discussing policy issues in regards to a fight Parnell was having with some radio host, seems pretty damning.

Of course Parnell IS using his alaska.gov email address, so theoretically the exchange would be subject to inquiry. Still, though, she should be using hers for this type of thing.

daveprince writes:

Yep, those would be the ones I remember plus a few more.

Amazingly enough given my Kernell fetish, I don't remember seeing the one you just mentioned before now. When I get a chance, I'll go hit up the relevant .govs and brush up on how illegal that is. I distinctly remember an Alaskan Sunshine Law which should come into play here. (Hell, I'm pretty sure I blogged about it at one point.)

Wonder how long it'll be before this article starts attracting former knoxnews commenters who can't stand that site now that their new color schemes are unreadably emo.

daveprince writes:

"Wonder how long it'll be before this article starts attracting former knoxnews commenters who can't stand that site now that their new color schemes are unreadably emo."

ANSWER: Looks like never!

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