Five years after University of Tennessee student David Kernell made national headlines when he was charged with perusing through the personal email account of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, then a 2008 vice presidential nominee on the Republican ticket, in search of politically damage material he never found, Kernell is a free man — truly free.
So reports the News Sentinel. More: Although Kernell wrapped up a year in federal prison in November 2011, he remained under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office through November 2014. But earlier this month, in one of his last acts before retiring in August, U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips freed Kernell from that final requirement.
Phillips’ ruling came after Kernell’s defense attorney, Wade Davies, filed a motion in which he stated Kernell had paid an adequate price for what Davies’ has long termed a youthful prank, has now completed his degree at UT and qualifies for the extraordinary move to release him from supervision.
The U.S. attorney’s office did not resist the move.
And Phillips did not tarry long in making his decision.
Although Phillips is a Republican appointee and Kernell is the son of a longtime Democrat (state representative from Memphis), Phillips did not want Kernell to go to prison in the first place. When a federal jury rejected all but one felony charge filed against Kernell in the case, Phillips ordered Kernell to spend a year and a day in a Knoxville halfway house. But the U.S. Bureau of Prisons refused and instead sent Kernell, by then 22, to prison. Judges can recommend at which facility a defendant should go, the bureau makes the final call.
Although the case has been dubbed the “Palin hacker case” in the media, this was no sophisticated computer hack, testimony showed.
After reading reports that Palin may have used her personal account for official business in her role as Alaska governor, Kernell, the son of longtime Memphis Democratic state lawmaker Mike Kernell, decided to go surfing the Web in search of the answer to her password security question.
After successfully guessing the password, he changed it and posted it online along with screenshots of some Palin family photographs and a few email messages.
He declared on the 4 Chan discussion board that he had found nothing politically damaging in the account.
Rep. Mike Kernell, defeated in last week’s Democratic primary by fellow Rep. G.A. Hardaway, looks back over 38 years in the Legislature in the Memphis Daily News. Kernell won his first two-year term in the year of Watergate and President Richard Nixon’s resignation.
Democrats were ascendant – Republicans were on the ropes and Kernell remembers the Democrats getting elected knew it.
“People walked around like we’ve got the power. But it still broke into factions. That’s human,” he said. “What the Republicans did was, they made friends with the Democrats and actually became very influential.”
Kernell added there are some lessons there for the Democratic minorities who will return to Nashville next year without him. Democratic leaders have had real problems adjusting to life as the minority party in both chambers over the last four years.
“I’ve been trying to tell them to make friends and just withhold judgment. When two people become friends, then they start trusting each other,” he said. “When another person stands up on the floor and you eat out with them every once in a while, they are going to listen to you and they are not going to vote to cut you off. That kind of relationship is needed.”
And Kernell said there are already signs that Republicans on Capital Hill are beginning to do what Democrats did after they got used to being in the majority.
“It’s going to factionalize. That stuff happens. The honeymoon is over,” Kernell said.
But that doesn’t mean life will be easier for Democratic legislators, especially those from the most Democratic city in the state.
State Rep. Mike Kernell was robbed late last week by a man who took even his pants, reports the Commercial Appeal. At about 1:30 in the morning on Friday, Kernell said, his cell phone was acting up, so he walked outside his Sherwood Forest house and sat in his car to finish the call.
Suddenly, a man ran up.
“I didn’t know what it was, so I tried to drive away. The guy had opened the door and said, ‘I’ve got a gun,'” said Kernell, D-Memphis. “At first, I didn’t know who it was. As soon as he said gun, well, bullets go faster than cars. I gave up. He pulled me out of the car, pushed me in the yard.”
At that point, Kernell thinks the bad guy was trying to get away as fast as he could. So the thug took Kernell’s phone, his wallet and his pants. Not just any pants, either: they’re handmade dress slacks, since Kernell said he’s hard to fit.
“They stole my pants. I’m standing there in the dark, I lost my glasses, and I don’t have my pants on,” said Kernell, who believes police are making progress in the case.
— Note: This replaces and expands earlier post.
Shelby County’s loss of two seats in the state House this year means four incumbent Memphis Democrats are squaring off in two separate Midtown-centered districts this summer. Richard Locker has a rundown on the races today. In Memphis’ House District 90, Rep. John DeBerry and Rep. Jeanne Richardson are running, along with community activist Ian Richardson. In House District 93, Rep. G.A. Hardaway and Rep. Mike Kernell are running for the same seat.
Both districts are heavily Democratic and have no Republican candidates in the general election. The two districts border each other and comprise most of Midtown and Poplar-Highland areas, with extensions into South and North Memphis and up to Frayser.
…In both races, the opposing incumbents differ in legislative styles and political philosophies.
Hardaway is one of the most vocal Democrats in floor debates, while Kernell prefers a lower-key approach that — with Republicans now in control of the statehouse — he says allows him to build bridges to get things done.
And both DeBerry and Richardson agree that DeBerry is among the most conservative Democrats on social issues while Richardson is among the most progressive. She’s for abortion rights, for example, and DeBerry is not.
As a minister at Coleman Avenue Church of Christ, DeBerry spoke out during debate or voted in favor of three controversial bills sponsored by Republicans that prompted criticism by some Democratic colleagues: an abstinence-only sex education bill, a bill that would have forbidden school counselors and teachers from discussing homosexuality and a bill that protected teachers who discuss alternatives to evolution
…Richardson, who spent most of her career in social work and mental health, said the issues she advocates and has sponsored include strong public schools, protecting working people from predatory lending, equal pay for women, extending benefits for children in foster care from age 18 to 21, and for treatment for the mentally ill to keep them out of jails, which won approval as a pilot project in East Tennessee this year. Her bill to protect the old growth forest in Overton Park also passed.
And she said she’s a strong supporter of rights for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
…In District 93, Hardaway and Kernell are emphasizing their constituent service work: helping citizens cut through the red tape of government — and their different styles.
Kernell sponsored the state’s consumer protection law, the workplace environmental hazard act, and designating Shelby Farms Forest a protected natural area.
He was sponsor of the state lottery and scholarship program.
Kernell said he believes he’s better able to represent the district in a time of GOP dominance because of his approach. “I believe I have the experience and the ability to work in this new environment of a two-to-one Republican majority in order to get things done for the good of the district and the rest of the state.”
Hardaway emphasizes his community meetings in the district, including housing and jobs conferences in which he invites officials to meet with constituents in need of assistance. “My job is a facilitator if they need help with state government,” he said.
Hardaway is known for his frequent floor speeches. He attacked last year’s “Norris-Todd” act that delayed the merger of the city and county schools, and this year the bills expediting municipal school districts in the suburbs.
“I probably speak out on more issues than most. There are times we have to get things on the record. And when I’m asking questions, I want sponsors to clarify what bills do.”
Six veteran Shelby County Democrats in the state Legislature — two senators and four representatives — are paired against each other in the primary elections as a result of redistricting and their qualifying petitions filed by Thursday’s deadline, reports Zack McMillan in a rundown on the Shelby election situation. Sens. Jim Kyle and Beverly Marrero are running against one another in the new Senate District 30.
Reps. John DeBerry and Jeanne Richardson are running in House District 90, along with Ian L. Randolph.
In House District 93, Reps. G.A. Hardaway and Mike Kernell are facing off.
…Pending the withdrawal deadline next Thursday, seven other Shelby County incumbent state legislators up for election this year would face either primary or general election opposition, or both.
Surprise developments included the emergence of a Democratic challenger, FedEx pilot and Navy veteran Robert Noziglia, to Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, in southeastern Shelby’s House District 95, and intra-party challengers to Republican Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville and Republican Reps. Ron Lollar (Bartlett) and Steve McManus (Cordova).
Kyle and Marrero agreed that running against party colleagues is uncomfortable.
“Yet it’s happening all over the country,” said Kyle, who added that the newly drawn district consists of 70 percent of his old district. “I believe I do a very good job in the Senate and I will work my best to prove my case to the constituents.”
Marrero said she’s already been visiting parts of Raleigh and Frayser added to the district and that Memphis needs “female representation” in the Senate.
“Whatever district I’m in, there will always be poor people, there will always be young people, there’ll always be people who have been abused or neglected that need a voice in Nashville,” Marrero said.
Kernell, elected in 1974, said, “I’m going to go apply to be rehired, apply for employment in the district and show people what I’ve done and what I can do to help as many people as possible.”
Hardaway decided to enter the District 93 race as opposed to the state Senate or District 86 where his home is located. He said he’ll move into the district, which is a couple of blocks from his home, by the election.
“I’ll continue to work as I’ve done to make sure that Memphis makes its own decisions when it comes to local education matters,” Hardaway said.
In House District 90, John DeBerry couldn’t be reached for comment. Richardson, who will also have to move about two blocks into the district, said several communities in her current district were shifted into it and she was born in it and attends church in it.
“A lot of progressive Democrats live there and I am a progressive Democrat. I’ve already started knocking on doors,” Richardson said.
Shelby County would lose two state House seats and one Senate seat in a secretive redistricting process under way in the Republican-controlled Tennessee legislature, reports Richard Locker. Shelby County’s population of 927,644 entitles the county to just over 4.82 state Senate seats and 14.47 House seats. Lawmakers say that will surely translate to the loss of one of Shelby’s six Senate seats and probably two of its 16 state House seats.
Memphis Democratic Rep. Barbara Cooper said she has been told that she and Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, are being placed in the same House district.
(Note: On the rumor circuit at Legislatorland, there are also tales of Democratic Reps. Jeanne Richardson and Mike Kernell being lumped into the same district.)