A 20-year-old Tennessee man has been indicted for hacking into an email account of US vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, according to court records.

David C. Kernell was indicted on Tuesday on a single charge of accessing a protected computer by a grand jury in US District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville. The indictment carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Kernell turned himself into law enforcement authorities and was scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday. He is the son of Mike Kernell, a Democratic state representative from Memphis.

The three-page indictment alleges that Kernell gained access to a Yahoo email account used by Palin, the Republican governor of Alaska, on about September 16. Palin was named Senator John McCain's vice-presidential running mate in August.

The next day, the Wikileaks.org published several screen shots of Yahoo email messages, email addresses of Palin family members and associates, and other data that hackers claimed to have obtained from Palin's private account.

A hacking group known as Anonymous claimed to have gained access to Palin's [email protected] account and sent the information to Wikileaks, which acts as an anonymous clearinghouse for leaked documents.

"Governor Palin has come under criticism for using private email accounts to conduct government business and in the process avoid transparency laws," Wikileaks wrote in a note accompanying the material. "The list of correspondence, together with the account name, appears to re-enforce the criticism."

See also:

Democrat rep's son suspected of Sarah Palin hack

Hotmail and Gmail may be open to 'Palin hack'