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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