Teacher Wrongly Accused of Exposing Students to P*rn Accepts Plea Bargain

You may remember the case of Julie Amero, the teacher who allegedly exposed her seventh grade students to p*rn*graphy on a classroom PC. Amero's defense (not ably presented at her trial) was that she accessed no p*rn and that the computer was infected with malware that caused the p*rn sites to pop up faster than she could close them. Amero was nonetheless convicted of impairing the morals of a child and risking injury to a minor.

Before she was sentenced, with the assistance of a new lawyer and a host of new evidence, Amero persuaded the judge to give her a new trial. The case has been languishing for some time. Last week, because she "wasn't in condition to endure another trial," Amero entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and agreed to give up her teaching license. She was fined $100.

Amero's decision to put an end to her ordeal is understandable but unfortunate given the evidence of her innocence. [more ...]

According to a forensic report prepared after an analysis of the computer's hard drive and an examination of the school's IT practices:

  • The school's IT manager told the jury that the anti-virus software had been updated with new virus definitions in early October, just days before the incident. But according to the system’s antivirus update log, signatures were last updated on Aug. 31, 2004. Those signatures were from June 30, 2004, which was the last update Computer Associates ever made for that product.
  • The computer had no anti-spyware or firewall software. It also lacked any pop-up blocking technology.
  • On Oct. 12, 2004, an adware program, newdotnet, was installed onto the system, likely at the same time someone installed a 'free' Halloween screen saver. The IT manager told the jury he didn't know if adware or spyware was on the computer, and the police's forensic investigator falsely told them that there was no evidence of uncontrollable pop-ups. In fact, the forensic report found pages that reloaded more than 20 times in a second.
  • The jury was told that one adult web page had a red link on it, indicating that Amero had clicked on it. In fact, the computer she was using turned visited links a green color and the HTML on the web page specified that link be red for every visitor.

The prosecution apparently refused to give up this dog of a case because of its newly minted argument: even if Amero didn't access the porn, she should have turned off the computer once she realized she couldn't control it. Maybe, but imposing criminal liability on a relatively computer-illiterate teacher because she didn't think quickly enough is reprehensible.

The result is a ruined life because the school system couldn't manage its IT competently and because prosecutors couldn't bring themselves to admit they made a mistake.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I'm sorry she gave up her license. (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by Fabian on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 02:28:33 PM EST
    This case is evidence that there are ridiculous prosecutors out there.  Who instigated this case to begin with?

    (Wonder if even the wingiest of right wingers will rejoice in triumph of justice in this case?)

    all that zer* t*lerance stuff. (none / 0) (#13)
    by Salo on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 04:24:23 PM EST
    Pr*secut*riocratic P*rn D*ctrine.  It's an abomination of desolation.

    the prosecutor's name (none / 0) (#18)
    by cpinva on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 10:55:15 PM EST
    is david smith.

    Who instigated this case to begin with?

    either mr. smith is a well-meaning idiot, as computer illiterate as ms. amero, or he's a total cynic, who will use this as one stepping stone in his political career.

    being something of a cynic myself, i'll go with option #2, for $100 alex.


    Turning off the computer would not be (none / 0) (#3)
    by nycstray on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 02:29:56 PM EST
    my first thought. I don't turn off my computer regularly, but I am self programed to auto close pop-up windows and similar annoyances.

    The people invading our computers should be the guilty ones, not the victim.

    An editorial (none / 0) (#17)
    by ding7777 on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 07:54:43 PM EST
    As one editorial states:

    Whether Amero was purposefully exploring p*rnographic Web sites, or was the victim of a technological assault, is irrelevant. She was the adult entrusted with the safety of those children, and she failed.


    Let's assume for a moment that Amero was, in fact, the victim of a technical problem. What if the issue wasn't a technical problem? What if the problem was a racy magazine? Would she leave it open all day on her desk and push students away if they came to take a look, or would she close the magazine and put it away?

    What if the problem was a fire in a trash can she did not start? Would Amero have done nothing, just as she did with the pop-ups? Would the excuse have been that she was not allowed to touch anything?


     Couldn't she, for example, have taped some paper over the screen? There were many avenues Amero could have explored, but did not, to rectify the problem

    O.M.G. (none / 0) (#20)
    by nycstray on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 04:10:15 AM EST
    I think most people would close the magazine and shove it in a drawer.

    Fire in a trash can, auto put out response.

    Taping paper over the screen?!!! Uh, I would actually turn the computer off before I thought that one out.

    Man, these people are NUTS! They make me want to crawl into a hole and hide.


    I think she deserves (none / 0) (#4)
    by WS on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 02:39:19 PM EST
    a pardon and any matters related to this ridiculous matter should be expunged from her record.  

    Can you get a pardon if you plea guilty? (none / 0) (#6)
    by ding7777 on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 02:45:53 PM EST
    I understand what you're saying but technically, is it possible?

    guilty plea (none / 0) (#9)
    by huzzlewhat on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 02:58:30 PM EST
    Actually, I don't think you can get a pardon unless you plead guilty.

    doesn't matter (none / 0) (#12)
    by txpublicdefender on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 04:19:04 PM EST
    Getting a pardon has nothing to do with whether you pled guilty or not.

    Honestly, the criminal conviction itself will probably not be much of a burden.  Disorderly conduct can be almost anything.  I just think it's sad that they made her give up her teaching license, although I can imagine someone in her position not wanting to set foot in a classroom ever again.


    Please delete my comment. (none / 0) (#5)
    by ThatOneVoter on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 02:39:21 PM EST
    Forget about the pron filter. So did Tchris first run though.

    prosecution's case to balance what we know of the defense's.

    I'd also like to know... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Reasonable Progressive on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 02:54:12 PM EST
    I'm glad this didn't happen in my jurisdiction.  I'd like to give my colleagues in Connecticut the benefit of the doubt, but this sounds like a case I'd dismiss.

    But that's JMHO.

    BTW, pardons are for people who have been found guilty or pled guilty to a crime.  Most people use their changed lives/rehabilitation as justification for a gubernatorial or presidential pardon.

    Her changed life? (none / 0) (#10)
    by Fabian on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 03:04:18 PM EST
    All she would need is a computer security course.

    The school would need a WHOLE lot more.  Wonder what happened after all that?  They probably dumped a chunk of change into updating the system.


    Doubt it. (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 03:08:51 PM EST
    I'm behind the curve here; please update me (none / 0) (#14)
    by magnetics on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 05:53:58 PM EST
    about the need for asterisks in the title of the piece.  If that's a necessity for safe and civilized web discourse these days, I accept it, but merely remark that the sph*nct*r of p*litic*l co*ectn*ss seems to have tightened several degrees since last I checked.

    C'est la vie I guess... or la guerre, or whatever.

    Or is it just that you don't want to show up when people are searching google for n**ghty  a*tw*rk?

    Law Filters (none / 0) (#15)
    by squeaky on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 06:00:53 PM EST
    Ban sites using the word spelled without * or dyslexic spelling.

    Thanks. Interesting. (none / 0) (#16)
    by magnetics on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 06:32:15 PM EST

    Corrupting the teacher (none / 0) (#19)
    by Jacob Freeze on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 03:49:05 AM EST
    Wikipedia carries this interesting note: "The teacher's computer was accessed by pupils while the regular teacher, Matthew Napp, was out of the room. When Julie took charge, the computer started showing pornographic images."

    If Wikipedia has it right, it's likely that one of the students hit the porn sites and started the pop-ups popping while no teacher was present, and it would be more appropriate to charge the students with corrupting the teacher than vice versa.

    I'm a professional geek by trade (none / 0) (#21)
    by SeeEmDee on Fri Nov 28, 2008 at 05:38:14 AM EST
    And by having Windoze merge the browser (Internet Explorer) with the main file management tool (Windows Explorer), not to mention leaving who-knows-how many ports open in the OS, M$ has produced a product that walks around the 'internets' with a 'Kick Me!" sign...which every Redmond-hating hacker obliges. That's why it has to be patched so much.

    'Uncle Bill' and his cohort should be in the docket, not that poor woman.

    The 'school's IT manager' is probably some 'yuuuuzer' who read a "Dummies" book and managed to BS his way into the position. He should be ashamed to call himself a geek...

    I remember this (none / 0) (#22)
    by JamesTX on Fri Nov 28, 2008 at 08:59:52 PM EST
    well. It was outrageous. A police officer claiming to be a "computer expert" testified at the first trial and made all sorts of statements that were false. It turned out he wasn't an expert at all, but had just been assigned the duty and had purchased some cheap software to analyze hard drives. It turned out he was totally incompetent in that respect. The statements to the jury were that the computer evidence proved that Amero had to intentionally click on the porn sites. That testimony was promptly torn to pieces by tech experts all over the country who knew the software and knew the limitations of the software. The jury gave in without a whimper.

    There is just no way to fight this sex-offender hysteria, and it is high time we did something about it, or they will eventually use it against all of us. You think not you? Remember, Amero didn't do anything wrong either!