Does Sentencing Delay Mean a Possible Reprieve for Julie Amero?
Julie Amero, the Connecticut substitute teacher facing a controversial 40-year prison sentence for exposing her students to online pornography, has once again had her sentencing delayed. Might the delay be a sign that prosecutors are reconsidering the evidence that led to her conviction?
As I’ve reported on several occasions since the beginning of this year, educator Julie Amero has been living a nightmare ever since being charged, and later convicted, of allowing students to see adult-oriented images on a computer in her classroom. Amero’s conviction shocked many educators, bloggers and Internet experts, many of whom believed that she was a victim of circumstances - namely, malicious malware that popped up on a computer screen, which was allowed to get through because the school’s Internet filters weren’t working properly that day.
Amero was originally expected to hear her sentence this past winter, but there’s been a series of delays, the latest coming this week. Rather than finding out her sentence tomorrow, it’s been pushed until May 18. The Norwich Bulletin offers some details:
For the third time since March, sentencing was postponed, this time until May 18.
The request by Assistant State’s Attorney David J. Smith, who prosecuted the case, was signed by Judge Hillary Strackbein.
“The state has not completed a full examination of all the issues which may affect its position at the sentencing hearing,” was Smith’s written explanation.
New London County State’s Attorney Michael Regan said because the case is pending he could not elaborate on any details. But, Regan said, “Issues have been raised by the defense. In general, we have an obligation and a duty to make sure justice is done….”
… W. Herbert Horner of Uncasville, the defense’s computer expert who countered Detective Mark Lounsbury’s claims, has maintained proof exists the pornographic sites were a result of viruses that infected the computer.
“I’m not surprised,” Horner said of the postponement Tuesday. “Simply because, had they done a thorough investigation the first time, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
One of the leading figures in the education community who has come to Amero’s defense is online safety advocate Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use. An educator and attorney, Willard has been covering the Amero case since her sentencing, including publishing a comprehensive report, The Julie Amero Tragedy, which goes step by step through the case’s legal and technical issues.
“On the face of this, the school officials and prosecution maintain that a 40-year-old female teacher spent the entire day surfing porn sites in a classroom filled with students,” she writes. “That a teacher would engage in this described activity defies all logic.”
So once again, it would seem we have several more weeks before we know if justice is served for Julie Amero. At least the series of delays suggests that prosecutors and other officials are taking the appropriate time needed to review the evidence - evidence that many critics argue that was ignored or misinterpreted during the trial. In the meanwhile, Nancy Willard will be discussing the case on Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live on Thursday, April 26 at 9am ET. The program will be streamed online in case you want to listen. I’ll keep following the story and let you know when anything else transpires. -andy