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May 9, 2010

What sentence might victim Sarah Palin urge for her hacker?

In this postfrom last weekend, I noted that there were lots of interesting and important computer crime sentencing issues raised by the recent conviction of a college student who hacked into Sarah Palin's Yahoo Mail account in 2008.  One of those issues concerned whether under the federal Crime Victims Rights Act, Sarah Palin would formally qualify as a "victim" of the criminal hacker.  Professor Paul Cassell, who is an expert and frequent litigator under the CVRA, responds via this postat The Volokh Conspiracy with these insights:

[Would] Sarah Palin ... be considered a “victim” of the crime under the Crime Victims Rights Act (CVRA), thereby eligible to give a victim impact statement (either or orally or in writing) when the hacker is sentenced[?] The answer to that question, I believe, is clearly “yes.”...

The CVRArequires that a person be “directly and proximately” harmed by an offense to be protected by the statute. Given that the indictment itself alleges a “tortious invasion of privacy” committed against Palin, it seems clear that she qualifies for protected victim status.

Sarah Palin has condemned the crime – and applauded the recent verdict – on her Facebook page.  It is probable that the Probation Officer preparing the pre-sentence report will contact her. Perhaps she will want to pass along comments directly to the judge as well.  If so, like every other “victim” of a federal crime, the Crime Victims’ Rights Act gives her that right.

These helpful points in turn prompt the question that is the title of this current post: what sentence might Sarah Palin urge for her hacker?  I suspect she might avoid recommending (at least publicly) a specific prison term, but might she urge (publicly?) some kind of shaming sanction or community service as part of the sentence? 

Would it be fitting for the defendant here to be ordered to create a YouTube video explaining the harms of hacking, and might Palin seek to be involved in such a shaming/service project?  At the very least, such a video would make for a good Facebook link.

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May 9, 2010 at 08:32 AM | Permalink

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