learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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Learning.now is a weblog that explores how new technology and Internet culture affect how educators teach and children learn. It will offer a continuing look at how new technology such as wikis, blogs, vlogs, RSS, podcasts, social networking sites, and the always-on culture of the Internet are impacting teacher and students' lives both inside and out of the classroom.
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D-Day for Julie Amero

Last week, the Connecticut substitute teacher convicted of exposing students to porn was supposed to find out her sentence. Yet once again, her sentencing has been delayed - until D-Day, of all days - and even the press is beginning to demand her exoneration.

Since January I’ve been reporting on the story of Julie Amero, the substitute teacher who was arrested, tried and convicted of exposing her students to pornography after adult images were displayed on her classroom computer. From the beginning, prosecutors have portrayed Amero as a bumbling porn enthusiast who was simply caught in the act, as Internet security experts have countered that she was merely the victim of pop-up porn ads that appeared out of her control due to malware on the computer. She was originally supposed to hear her sentence this past winter, but the proceeding has been delayed again and again. We were supposed to find out the sentence on May 18; instead, the court announced yet another delay, this one until June 6. (Yes, that would be D-Day.)

Why all the delays? The general consensus seems to be that the state is trying to find a way of saving face, perhaps recognizing that it went overboard in their prosecution of Amero. Various factors get cited, from the lack of functioning Internet filters in the school, the instructions she received to not turn off the computer under any circumstance, and the fact that the defense’s Internet security expert wasn’t allowed to testify during the trial.

So what might be going on behind the scenes? For one thing, the defense would very much want to see her conviction set aside by the judge, based on everything that’s happened since her initial conviction. Another possibility is the state is trying to work out a deal with Amero so both sides can claim some sort of victory. That would be an understandable position for the state to take, as criminal cases are often settled outside of the courtroom, and the longer this drags out, the more egg they have on their face. For a settlement to happen, though, Amero would likely have to admit some level of criminal culpability, and given her steadfast defense of herself, that seems somewhat unlikely - unless she and her family are simply too exhausted from the two year’s they’ve spent in legal proceedings.

Then there’s another possibility: calling for a new trial. On the plus side, a new trial would probably allow Amero to bring new evidence and new expertise to the jury, which would be in her favor. It was also mean that the case would play out even longer, dragging on indefinitely. The stress of a retrial is almost impossible to comprehend. However, there would be new faces coming to the table: according to the Norwich Bulletin, Amero’s legal team may be bringing in another attorney, while the judge is expected to rotate out of the case and be replaced, based on a previously scheduled realignment of judges.

So until June 6, the debate surrounding the case will continue, both in the blogosphere and the mainstream media. Bloggers have been almost unanimously in support of Amero, while until now, the press has been neutral, or even sympathetic to the prosecution. That may be changing, though, as can be seen in an op-ed published by Rick Green in the Hartford Courant:

The state of Connecticut spent two years investigating before it won a speedy conviction of Julie Amero - the infamous Norwich porn teacher - this January.

But it was never as tidy as the Norwich Public Schools, the Norwich police, the state of Connecticut and the Norwich Bulletin newspaper made it seem.

In truth, Amero, a clumsy computer novice, was the victim of malicious software that took over the PC in the classroom where she was substituting on Oct. 19, 2004. Since Amero’s arrest, the state has refused to even consider this possibility….

Thankfully, a team of computer security experts from throughout the country, drawn to the case by outraged Internet bloggers and a handful of journalists, has presented Smith and his bosses with the truth.

Amero didn’t click on the porn. Software that might have blocked the porn was months out of date. Critical evidence was mishandled. School and police computer “experts” who testified were woefully ignorant about computer security and porn spyware to the point that their testimony was blatantly false.

The state’s case began unraveling soon after the hapless jury voted to convict. A firestorm of pressure - from university professors and software executives to programmers - forced repeated postponements of Amero’s sentencing.

But never underestimate public officials when they are cornered. When Amero is finally sentenced, expect a deal that keeps the egg off the many faces behind this sham trial.

Inevitably, Amero will be exonerated. We all deserve an apology for this insulting case.

I suspect that Green’s column won’t be the last we hear from the press. The longer this drags out, the worse it is for everyone involved. Let’s hope that D-Day is indeed a new day for Julie Amero. -andy

Filed under : People, Policy, Safety


Thank you for beating the drum! Being a TechNoNot myself, I can only imagine being accused of doing something like that.

This news made my day. Thanks. I needed that.


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