A Bad Prosecution Refuses to Die

When we last checked in on Julie Amero, she was facing sentencing for "impairing the morals of a child and risking injury to a minor" by showing porn sites on the web to students in her seventh grade class. Amero's side of the story, which proved (albeit belatedly) to be convincing, is that the computer was infected with malware that kept popping up porn sites faster than she could close them. The state's "expert" testified that Amero must have deliberately accessed the porn, a false proposition that computer experts from across the nation derided after Amero was convicted.

The good news: "In June of 2007, [Superior Court Judge Hillary] Strackbein threw out the initial conviction and ordered a new trial." The bad news:

Unbelievably, more than 13 months after Strackbein set aside Amero's conviction on charges that she allowed seventh-graders to view pornography in her classroom, the state is apparently still planning to bring Amero back to trial.

Why? [more ...]

Perhaps overworked state prosecutors are too busy to file the paperwork to abandon the case. It's more likely that this is all an elaborate face-saving maneuver that must slowly unwind so that nobody will ever look bad.

There is no indication that state investigators are taking another look at the now discredited work done by the Norwich Police Department, which concluded that Amero was responsible for the storm of porn pop-up messages that took over her classroom computer on Oct. 19, 2004.

The truth is that Amero, nearly a computer illiterate, was a victim of malicious software that had taken over her PC, thanks to the school district's failure to update its technology. A team of computer security experts from around the country, drawn to the case by reports of Amero's conviction, proved without a doubt that Amero was a victim of "spyware" and the inability of anyone to take an objective look at the case.

Taking an objective look at the case is apparently beyond the ability of the Connecticut prosecutors who are handling it. Why haven't they done so? According to the state's attorney:

The Amero case "is not a high priority for us. We have other cases down here that are much more important."

Tell that to Julie Amero.

Amero's life continues to be the hell that began with her highly public arrest in November of 2004 on charges of risk of injury to a minor. At the time of her arrest, she was pregnant. She lost the baby.

Over the last year, I'm told, Amero has been hospitalized for stress and has lost at least one job because her employer didn't like her arrest record. She is on medication. So she waits, declining to speak publicly, for the state to do something.

It's time for this bogus prosecution to die so that Julie Amero can get her life back.

State prosecutors, faced with a case ruined by what Strackbein called "erroneous" testimony and "false information," should walk away now and seek dismissal of all charges against Amero.


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    Oh, fer Pete's sake! (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by SeeEmDee on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 01:08:26 PM EST
    I'm a 'desktop support tech' (free translation: geek, and proud of it!) and can tell you that such bugs are the staple of the hackers. I have to clean off these frakking things everyday, often being forced to use the 'hoof-and-mouth' method because the damn things get into the registry and will not come out, and we don't have time to play.

    And I wouldn't let that 'expert' within 20 feet of my box; anybody who knows anything about such bugs would have figured out that they were dealing with a  'Browser Helper Object' that was probably being run by a rootkit. Stupid effing Gubmint wonk. It isn't the poor woman's fault.

    100% Agree (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by skuld1 on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 01:18:27 PM EST
    I'm in the same field as you and you hit it right on the head!

    In hindsight, the teacher probably should have just shut the PC down, but she never should have been charged.


    Or killed the browser itself. (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Fabian on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 01:29:48 PM EST
    Yes, the school was at fault not the teacher.  One of the best reasons to block porn sites isn't the content.  It's because those sites are frequently alive with malware and spyware and visiting a site is a great way get a computer clogged with the nasty things.

    I remember this story.... (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 01:16:57 PM EST
    and sadly I'm not surprised this poor woman is still being raked over the criminal justice coals.

    It's how we do....

    So Who Will Be (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by The Maven on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 02:18:44 PM EST
    taking up Ms. Amero's case for malicious prosecution?  I have to hope that after all she has been through and continues to be subjected to, there are attorneys out there champing at the bit to bring suit on her behalf.

    Perhaps the prospect of considerably more bad publicity for the prosecutors and the likelihood of a large judgment or settlement in favor of Ms. Amero would make rectifying this as soon as possible (i.e., dropping the case) much more of a "high priority" and a lot "more important".

    The amazing thing is that the prosecutors are seeking to waste potentially scarce resources on this rather than turning to some real crimes that could possibly use their attention.

    I don't think there is enough.... (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by kdog on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 02:27:06 PM EST
    real crime to justify their budget...so we get crap like this.

    We would all be amazed at the things done to simply justify a budget.


    easier said than done. (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by cpinva on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 02:35:52 PM EST
    Or killed the browser itself.

    years ago, before i educated myself (out of self-defense!), the same thing would happen to my pc. i followed your advice. didn't work. the browser just kept re-opening itself, as long as i was online.

    in her case, the only way to be sure would be to shut the pc down, assuming she knew how to turn off the power to the machine, which i suspect she didn't. i say this because the machine was probably connected via a T-1 line, and terminating its connectivity to the net would take more time than just pulling the plug. again, assuming she even had a clue how.

    closing a prosecution doesn't help an AG's W-L record, it's like a tie. hence, no hurry to shut this thing down. since it doesn't cost the prosecutors anything personally, they have no vested interest in doing so.

    But she was a computer illiterate, and... (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by oneangryslav on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 02:57:24 PM EST
    "...in her case, the only way to be sure would be to shut the pc down..."

    I remember this case well as the whole premise of the case was so mindbogglingly inane and my heart went out to the poor woman.  Since I read quite a lot about the case, I remember specifically that she was explicitly instructed (by whom I can't remember) to never turn off the computer.  It was something like, "regardless of what happens, DO NOT turn off the computer."  

    That is what made the case even more shocking than it already was.

    Poor woman.


    I can imagine! (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Fabian on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 04:38:24 PM EST
    If you were tech savvy, that instruction would seem ludicrous.  No computer ever suffered fatal damage from a less-than-graceful shutdown.  Part of our daily routine at the hospital was to (gracefully) shut down every PC workstation and sanitize the keyboards.

    OTOH, I can see a school getting some computers donated to them and not having the brains and/or budget to hire a decent tech person to oversee them.  It doesn't excuse them from blaming a hapless teacher though.


    I know who did the computech work (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by Nowonmai on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 07:27:23 PM EST
    In CT. I lived in that town, and my kids went to those schools. I know who/what company did the 'security' setup, and I also know how easy it was to find out how to bypass it.

    Why won't these persecutors (no, not misspelled)just get the big wooden cross and quit being coy about it? They want someone to blame. And (sarcasm on, heavily on) everyone knows sweet innocent children have NO idea how to bypass net nannies, security, or copy protection.

    Connecticut? (none / 0) (#10)
    by Left of center on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 06:33:07 PM EST
    Aren't they the ones who reelected Joe Lieberman?
    Definitely not the brightest folks in the nation.

    Connecticut (none / 0) (#12)
    by jimbo on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 11:00:39 PM EST
    Is Connecticut the new Alabama?  We should be aware of that kind of infection.

    geez, the original one (none / 0) (#13)
    by cpinva on Sat Jul 12, 2008 at 12:26:57 AM EST
    Is Connecticut the new Alabama?

    seems hellbent on outdoing itself. CT is going to have go some to catch up.

    Part of the problem is that there is no (none / 0) (#14)
    by differnet on Sat Jul 12, 2008 at 01:09:16 AM EST
    disadvantage to a prosecutor charging someone with a sex crime and prosecuting them.  However, if a prosecutor allows a potential "sex criminal" to go "free," he or she can easily be accused as being weak on crime.  If the prosecutor looses the case, he can simply say that there wasn't enough evidence to get a conviction.  Since there is no penalty, especially in the court of public opinion, for over-zealous (especially in the area of sex related crimes) prosecution, a prosecutor would be a fool not to take these types of cases to court.

    nice (none / 0) (#15)
    by txpublicdefender on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 03:59:02 PM EST
    I love the quote from the state's attorney, about how the case is just "not a priority" for them.  Oh, ho hum.  Sorry, innocent lady.  You will have to wait and suffer, wondering whether you will be a convicted criminal and jailed, and forever prevented from pursuing your career while we do other stuff before we get around to deciding to drop the bogus criminal charges against you.  You just are not a priority for us.  Whoever said that should be fired.