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KNOXVILLE, - A federal magistrate judge told defense attorneys they couldn't question FBI agents about who they scoured the laptop of University of Tennessee student charged with improperly accessing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's personal e-mail account.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley ruled Thursday that he must first decide if the search itself was legal before deciding whether to examine what agents did once they seized David Kernell's computer.

Kernell, the son of a Democratic Tennessee legislator, allegedly gained access to Palin's account in September by correctly answering a series of personal security questions. He has pleaded not guilty.

Kernell's attorneys have sought to exclude evidence seized from the computer from Kernell's trial. Palin was the Republican vice presidential candidate at the time of the alleged hacking.

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