U.S. v. Kernell, No. 08-CR-142 (E.D. Tenn. September 23, 2010)
A federal jury convicted defendant for a number of crimes related to his hacking into Sarah Palin’s Yahoo email account in September 2008. One of the crimes the jury convicted him of was the “destruction or alteration of a record or document with the intent to obstruct an investigation” (a violation of 18 USC 1519).
After hacking into Palin’s account, but before the formal FBI investigation began, defendant deleted some Palin family pictures he had downloaded from the account, uninstalled his web browser, and defragmented his hard drive.
Defendant moved for a “judgment of acquittal”, arguing that the evidence was insufficent to support his convictions. The court denied the motion.
The court found that the Government offered sufficient proof to support the conviction. Even though defendant preserved (did not destroy) his computer, spoke with an FBI agent investigating the matter and advised his friends to be truthful in what they said about the case, the court looked to the totality of the evidence as supporting defendant’s guilt.
Given that defendant deleted images from his computer that he had downloaded from Palin’s account, and had run web searches on “legalities email” and “soppenaing [sic.] ip addresses”, a rational jury could find him guilty. So the jury verdit stood.