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.
Bills approved by both chambers Tuesday will increase the penalty for criminal assaults if the victim is either a firefighter, emergency worker or a health care professional.
The bills touched off considerable debate in the Senate as Republican Sens. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville and Brian Kelsey of Germantown questioned the wisdom of putting some victims on a higher level than others.
Campfield said the legislation violates the principle of “equal protection under the law” and questioned why a person assaulting a pregnant woman should face a lesser penalty than someone assaulting a doctor or fireman.
Proponents noted current law already makes the penalty higher when the victim is a law enforcement officer and said firefighters, emergency personel and doctors or nurses face greater risk of assault than others.
Both bills now go to the governor. The bill on health care provider assaults (HB306) passed 31-1 in the Senate and 63-31 in the House. The bill on firefighters and emergency workers (SB66) was approved 24-2 in the Senate; 93-3 in the House.
State Rep. Curry Todd served his required sentence on a Davidson County DUI conviction in a Madison County jail, reports Jackson Baker (who initially thought Todd, R-Collierville, had been jailed on a new offense). Todd was incarcerated from Thursday, January 31, to Saturday, February 2, at the Madison County Penal Farm.
…His 48-hour stay at the Madison County Penal Farm was, in fact, the time he was obliged to serve as a result of last year’s conviction in Nashville — the one and only on his record.
The change of venue and place on the calendar were at Todd’s request, and it was all worked out between the court and law-enforcement authorities of Davidson and Madison counties, explained Madison County Sheriff David Woolfork.
“That sort of thing happens all the time,” said Woolfork, who described Todd’s time at the penal farm as uneventful. What did he do there? “Oh, he tore up uniforms,” said Woolfork, who went on to elucidate that the Sheriff’s Department was in the process of revamping the uniforms of its officers and that Todd labored away at the redesign of several.
That meant, among other things, removing the chevrons from one place on a sleeve and re-stitching them somewhere else.
And why did Rep. Todd choose Madison County as the place of his incarceration? “Oh, probably because he heard what a great sheriff I was,” Woolfork said.
Or it may have been because Jackson is a place on the map between Nashville and Memphis, both the latter places housing ample numbers of inquisitive media people.
In any case, Todd was quickly free to go.
ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Hawkins County General Sessions Judge James “Jay” Taylor has received an additional one-year sentence in exchange for guilty pleas to six felony theft charges.
The Kingsport Times-News (http://bit.ly/SSDiXu) reports that a judge on Friday also ordered Taylor to pay $71,783 in restitution to victims in Hawkins County and serve 600 hours of community service.
Taylor is already serving a three-year jail sentence stemming from guilty pleas last month to similar charges in Davidson County.
The newspaper reports the charges in Hawkins County stem from money he took from clients in his private practice and from funds he raised to put a display in the courthouse lobby that contained the Ten Commandments.
Sumner County Assistant District Attorney William Lamberth, who is campaigning for the 44th District seat on the State House of Representatives, is fuming over accusations from opponent Steven Glaser that he exchanged a reduced sentence in the Kenneth Lame murder case for campaign contributions, reports the Portland Leader.
“This is the type of made-up, political mud-slinging that turns people off to politics,” Lamberth said Tuesday evening after learning of a press release Glaser sent out to the media. “An open discussion of the issues that can strenghten our communities — like better, high-paying jobs, schools, and keeping taxes low — those are the things that I want to focus on as a candidate and a member of this community.”
Glaser, who refers to himself as a Judge, even though he is no longer the Judge for the City of Portland, has accused Lamberth of accepting $1,500 from a “convicted killer’s father and attorney before sentencing.”
Glaser states in his press release: “In November 2010, Kenneth Lame was arrested on the charge of shooting his wife on June 10, 2010. His trial was set for April 9, 2012 on charges of second degree murder…..On March 10th and 28th in 2012, donations were made to Mr. Lamberth from both Kenneth’s father and attorney. A week later, on April 5, 2012, the District Attorney’s office agreed to lessen Kenneth’s charge to criminal negligence….After nearly two years of preparing the evidence proving Kenneth’s guilt for second degree murder, the District Attorney’s office decided there was not enough to prove he intended to kill his wife. This was less than one week after a donation of $1,000 from Kenneth’s attorney was made to the Assistant District Attorney, William Lamberth. There is an appearance of impropriety that must be addressed.”
…Kenneth Lame was indicted in Nov. 2010 on charges of second degree murder in the death of his wife, Wendy White Lame, in June 2010; however, in a settlement plea, Lame pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and was sentenced to two years with a minimum of seven months to serve. He is currently serving his sentence in Morgan County Correctional Complex in Wartburg, Tenn.
“I think it’s reprehensible that Steve Glaser tried to score political points from a tragedy that destroyed two families,” Lamberth said. “There are nine assistant district attorneys in our office. I have cases that are assigned to me and I was never involved in the Lame case at any point. Furthermore, ADA Ron Blanton, who was assigned to the case, has no knowledge of who gives to my campaign or the day-to-day workings of my campaign. The two are entirely separate.”
— Note: The article doesn’t mention it, but Lamberth is the Republican nominee; Glaser the Democrat.
A former Sevier County Court Clerk who admitted he stole nearly $100,000 from the county avoided jail time Wednesday by pleading guilty to theft and official misconduct charges, reports the News Sentinel. Joe Thomas Keener, who resigned in August 2010 after manning the elected post for more than 18 years, received a suspended 10-year prison sentence that he’ll serve on supervised probation, 4th Judicial Circuit District Attorney General James B. Dunn said following a hearing in Sevier County Circuit Court.
Prosecturors contend Keener, 50, stole $94,645.50 in cash from the clerk’s office between July 1 and Aug. 16, 2010.
In accordance with an agreement reached between prosecutors and defense attorney Wade Davies, Keener pleaded guilty to charges of official misconduct and theft of more than $60,000, received the suspended prison sentence and is required to repay $14,109 in restitution for an audit conducted by Sevier County. He must also complete 500 hours of community service work.
Dunn said Keener has already repaid all of the money he stole from the county.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the five-year sentence of a man who sent threatening letters to a federal judge in Nashville — including one that contained a white powder substance that was ultimately determined to be artificial sweetener.
Further from The Tennessean: Herbert Wilfred Nixon sent the letters to Senior Judge Thomas Wiseman after Wiseman sentenced him to three years in prison for credit card fraud in 2002.
“The unsigned letters demanded money and threatened the judge’s life,” according to the 6th Circuit opinion written by Judge Raymond M. Kethledge. Nixon pleaded guilty to making a false threat involving a biological weapon.
While federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of 30 to 37 months, U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr. sentenced Nixon to 60 months.
Nixon argued that the sentence was unreasonable, but the three-judge appellate panel upheld it, citing factors including Nixon’s criminal history and the fact that his hoax “required the government to spend resources responding to a bio-hazard threat and were meant to terrorize a district judge and his staff.”