A U.S. federal grand jury has indicted the son of a Democratic state lawmaker for breaking into the e-mail account of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The U.S. Justice Department says David Kernell, 20, has turned himself over to authorities and is appearing in a Tennessee courtroom Wednesday to face charges.

He is the son of Tennessee State Representative Mike Kernell.

The indictment alleges David Kernell reset the password to Palin's personal e-mail account to gain access to it without authorization.  The university student allegedly took photographs of the account's content and e-mail addresses, and posted some of the information on the Internet last month.

If convicted, Kernell faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  A trial date has not been set.

The incident drew attention to concerns that Palin used her private e-mail account to conduct state business in her role as governor of Alaska.

Critics accuse her of using the private account to evade the state's public records law.  Her aides have denied this.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.