The man who guessed the password Sarah Palin’s personal email account when she was a nominee for vice president in 2008, died last week in California.
David Kernell, 30, died of complications related to progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) late Friday or early Saturday, according to a statement his family released on Thursday.
Kernell, the son of former Democratic state representative Mike Kernell, was a 20-year-old economics major at the University of Tennessee Knoxville when he hacked into the account.
David Kernell was a 20-year-old economics major at the University of Tennessee Knoxville when he hacked into Sarah Palin’s personal email account in 2008 (both pictured in 2008)
Successfully guessing the security answers to Palin’s Yahoo! account, Kernell changed her password to ‘popcorn’ before posting the new password, family photos and emails to the message board 4chan.
His family shared that Kernell had been diagnosed with MS in 2014 and began participating in clinical research trials at the Cedars-Sinai Neurosciences Research Center in Los Angeles.
He hoped to help develop cures and treatments for other victims of MS, the page-long statement detailed.
Kernell, 30, died of complications related to progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) late Friday or early Saturday in California (pictured in 2010)
Kernell, once ranked in the top 10 per cent of chess players in the country, also enjoyed spearfishing, free diving, rock climbing, wilderness exploration and online games.
‘David did not let this incident define him,’ the family said, according to Commercial Appeal.
‘He returned to UT Knoxville to complete his economics degree and further refined his programming skills by helping his local community.
‘He first volunteered his expertise to Tennessee Voices for Children, a child advocacy non-profit group. Later, he moved to California and worked to develop facial recognition software that could identify children at risk of abuse.’
Palin was devastated by the hacking, comparing it to Watergate in 1972 which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. While at trial, Palin called the hacking ‘the most disruptive and discouraging’ moment of the campaign (pictured in 2016)
Kernell had read that Palin conducted official business as governor of Alaska on her personal email, prompting the hacking. He didn’t find anything politically damning.
Palin was devastated by the hacking, comparing it to Watergate in 1972 which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
While at trial, Palin called the hacking ‘the most disruptive and discouraging’ moment of the campaign.
Under the pseudonym Rubico, Kernell posted the new email password ‘popcorn’, family photos and emails to the message board 4chan
Kernell faced only one felony charge and served 10 months in a minimum-security prison for obstruction of justice because he destroyed the evidence from his computer.
He was also booked on a misdemeanor charge for illegally accessing Palin’s email. Kernell was released from prom U.S. Probation Office supervision in 2013.
Wade Davies, Kernell’s attorney during the case, had argued that what his client did was more in line with a prank. He furthered his argument by asserting that the prosecution wouldn’t be as critical had the victim not been Palin.
Allan Bogle, host of the program Into the Deep on radio station WEVL FM 89.9, claimed to know Kernell through the Memphis Chess Club, adding that he grew up to be a ‘very smart guy.’ Bogle added that Kernell used ‘Rubico’ – the pseudonym he posted Palin’s information with – to play online chess.
‘For a brief period of time he was the most famous chess player in the country,’ Bogle added.
Services are being planned in Newport Beach, California, and in Germantown.
Endowments are being taken at the Memphis Chess Club, Cedars-Sinai Neurosciences Research Center, and the Tennessee Voices for Children.