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

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July112008

No Resolution Yet for Julie Amero

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about Julie Amero, the substitute teacher whose conviction on child endangerment charges was set aside after computer experts demonstrated that spyware caused her PC to display adult images in a classroom. Thirteen months after the conviction was tossed, prosecutors still haven’t dropped the case - and the local media is hopping mad about it.

It’s a nightmare scenario, to say the least: a sub goes into a classroom, tries to use a PC, only to have adult images pop up accidentally on the screen. But what could have just been a case of professional embarassment became much worse, when local authorities got wind of the incident and arrested her for exposing her students to porn. A policeman testified in court that computer logs showed she did it on purpose, and the jury convicted her based on that evidence.

It didn’t take long, though, for computer experts to come out and demonstrate that spyware on the computer was the likely culprit. So last summer, a judge threw out Amero’s conviction due to “erroneous” testimony and “false information,” granting her a new trial. At the time, many people expected that would be the end of it - prosecutors would eventually drop the charges and Amero would be fully exonerated. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, she’s left in a legal limbo, an arrest left on her record despite the case being fully discredited by computer security experts.

Fast forward to earlier this week, when Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green penned an essay entitled Let’s End Teacher’s Long Nightmare. Green hypothesizes that charges haven’t been dropped because prosecutors are trying to save face for all of those involved in her arrest and conviction. He started working the phones with state officials to find out what was going on. The Amero case “is not a high priority for us,” said state’s attorney Michael Regan. “We have other cases down here that are much more important.” He tried contacting a local prosecutor, but he wouldn’t return his email or calls. And when he asked the chief state’s attorney for comment, he didn’t get much information either. “It’s a pending case,” he said. “We can’t and shouldn’t be commenting on it.”

“State prosecutors… should walk away now and seek dismissal of all charges against Amero,” Green concluded. “This is an embarrassing outrage. It’s time to finally free Julie Amero.”

Two days later, the Courant’s editors jumped in, offering an editorial of their own, bluntly titled Drop the Charges.

It’s been more than a year since a Superior Court judge set aside the conviction, based on false evidence, of Norwich substitute schoolteacher Julie Amero and ordered a new trial. But state prosecutors are taking their sweet time in deciding whether to take Ms. Amero to court again — or to make things right by seeking dismissal of the case. Meanwhile, with the humiliating charges against her still active, Ms. Amero twists in the wind. This is a tragic miscarriage of justice…. … By burying her case in paperwork, delaying decisions and denying her justice, prosecutors are treating Ms. Amero almost as if she were a Guantanamo detainee. It’s past time to end the agony.

Just as state officials are generally keeping mum, so are Amero’s supporters. As Green noted in his column, those on her side are worried that speaking out at this moment in time “would antagonize prosecutors.” Whether or not that would be the case, it’s hard to know, but one thing is sure - being caught in this legal limbo must be hell for Julie Amero. -andy

Filed under : People

Responses

Wow. I was not aware of this case. Every educator should be concerned. Based on the information you present, our freedom to use technology is threatened by the action of these public officials. Is there anything our online networks can do to reverse this blatant injustice immediately? Let us know, please.

It would appear that perhaps more education is needed — for both the adults and children — on basic computer literacy skills such as turning off a monitor or knowing how to “force-quit” or “end a task” if undesirable images or windows appear on a screen.

I wonder whether those who strongly advocate for CIPA filtering will grab onto this story at some point, in order to justify the need to “protect our children” from the Internet.

It would appear that perhaps more education is needed — for both the adults and children — on basic computer literacy skills such as turning off a monitor or knowing how to “force-quit” or “end a task” if undesirable images or windows appear on a screen.

I wonder whether those who strongly advocate for CIPA filtering will grab onto this story at some point, in order to justify the need to “protect our children” from the Internet.

I would like to know what evidence they could possibly have that she accessed the porn on purpose. She should really sue the school district for failing to install the proper filters on their computers and exposing HER to the filth. For the state’s attorney to say that “The Amero case is not a high priority for us,” is totally irresponsible. To not end her nightmare immediately is totally unconscionable. Doesn’t the Connecticut Teachers Union have anything to say about this or are they asleep at the switch?

I find this to be very scary. I think about all the times I search for a word or phrase and get back adult web sites that have absolutely nothing to do with my search. I hope this is resolved soon!

If anyone is interested, there is a “Justice for Julie” petition online: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/57/Justice-for-Julie-Amero

If you believe in her case — it can’t hurt to sign.

I recently came across this article when looking for information regarding Connecticut’s teachers.
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to teach but after reading this and many other articles about Julie Amero I am not so sure I want to anymore.
She should have been protected against such rediculous charges.

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