For Bristol Palin, hacked e-mail meant harassing calls

The trial over the former Alaska governor's improperly accessed Yahoo! account marches on

Published April 22, 2010 12:10PM (EDT)

Bristol Palin said she received countless phone calls and hundreds of text messages when her cell number was posted online after her mother's e-mail account was hacked. Only one really scared her.

Palin testified Wednesday that she was 17 and pregnant in 2008 when her mother Sarah Palin's Yahoo! account was invaded after the former Alaska governor was picked as the Republican vice presidential candidate. Bristol Palin said she worried when a bunch of boys called, claiming they were at her front door and wanted in.

"We live in the middle of nowhere in Alaska ... in the middle of the woods," Palin said during the trial of a 22-year-old former college student accused of hacking the account. The trial continues Thursday and could last more than a week. Sarah Palin also was subpoenaed to testify but it was unclear if and when she would.

Bristol Palin said her number was included with a photo she snapped of her brother Trigg taking his first bite of solid food and e-mailed to her parents while they were away during the 2008 presidential campaign.

"I saw a screen shot on the TV," she said.

"I think it was Fox News," she said of the station for which her mother is a paid political analyst.

David Kernell was an economics major at the University of Tennessee when he was accused of hacking the account. He is on trial on charges of identity theft, wire fraud, intentionally accessing Palin's e-mail account without authorization and obstructing an FBI investigation. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for up to 50 years.

Kernell has not been accused of the harassing calls, e-mails and text messages that Bristol Palin and a former aide described to jurors. Kernell's attorney Wade Davies claims the e-mail intrusion was just a prank and has attempted to show the account was accessible to other people, was sometimes used for political and official messages and was not just private.

Testimony with Tennessee ties was given by Sarah Palin's aide. Frank Bailey of Anchorage, Alaska, a former Palin campaign aide who also worked in her state administration, testified he set up the e-mail account for Palin just after she was picked to be the running mate of Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

Bailey said after being notified about someone breaking in Palin's e-mail in September 2008, he had to act quickly to block further intruders. Bailey testified that he acted on a suggestion by his wife that he build a new password out of Peyton Colts.

"Just like Peyton Manning?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Weddle jokingly asked Bailey.

Bailey said his wife is more a sports fan than he is and he at the time didn't realize any connection between Manning and the state where the Indianapolis Colts quarterback remains beloved since his years as a star at the University of Tennessee.

"I'm embarrassed to say I did not," Bailey said.

Authorities say Kernell answered personal security questions about Palin, such as her having met her husband, Todd, in Wasilla, Alaska. Kernell is accused of resetting the e-mail account password, making screenshots of contents and posting some information on public websites.

Bristol Palin testified that she had to turn her phone over to investigators and went without cell phone service for weeks because she couldn't sign a new contract as a 17-year-old.

She said her number "wouldn't have been posted if it hadn't been hacked into."

After court ended for the day, Kernell was asked by WMC-TV of Memphis what he thought of Bristol Palin.

He replied, "She's not my type."

Ivy Frye, a longtime friend of the Palin family in Wasilla, Alaska, and former special assistant to Palin when she was governor, testified that the posting of the screen shots led to numerous "vile" and "vulgar" e-mails being sent to the accounts of Palin's children and other relatives and friends. Frye said all their e-mail addresses were exposed.

Jurors also have heard from a records manager with Yahoo! and from Kernell's former University of Tennessee roommate, who said Kernell was politically opposed to Palin, but never said anything about wanting to hurt her and her running mate, Sen. John McCain.

By Bill Poovey

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