Image: David Kernell
Lisa Norman-Hudson AP file
David Kernell, the son of a Democratic Tennessee state lawmaker, is accused of hacking into the personal e-mail account of Sarah Palin.
updated 3/9/2009 4:55:04 PM ET 2009-03-09T20:55:04

A University of Tennessee student charged with hacking into the personal e-mail account of Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor and former Republican vice presidential nominee, pleaded not guilty Monday to three more charges in the case.

A magistrate agreed to push back the trial of David Kernell, the son of a Democratic Tennessee legislator, from May to October.

Kernell allegedly gained access to Palin's account in September by correctly answering a series of personal security questions.

The added counts are fraud, unlawful electronic transmission of material outside Tennessee and attempts to conceal records to impede an FBI investigation.

"The facts of the case have not changed, only the theories of law the government is pursuing have changed," defense attorney Wade Davies said. He plans to seek dismissal of the new charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Weddle did not immediately return a call for comment on the new charges.

Web nickname 'rubico'
The initial charge of intentionally accessing Palin's account without authorization, unsealed in October, carried a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Davies contended it should have been a misdemeanor.

Following the original indictment, Kernell pleaded not guilty and was released on several conditions, including staying away from his computer except for school work.

The superseding indictment, filed Feb. 3, included the original charge and the three additional ones.

Both the original and the superseding indictments said Kernell tapped into the Alaska governor's widely publicized Yahoo! e-mail account, reset the password and was able to read the contents, make screenshots and post his exploits on the Web using the nickname "rubico." The indictment said at least one other person followed a similar path into Palin's account.

Kernell is the son of longtime state Rep. Mike Kernell of Memphis.

In court filings, Davies has questioned whether a search warrant for Kernell's apartment authorized investigators to confiscate his laptop and review its contents. Prosecutors responded that "the seizure of the defendant's computer had many justifications."

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