Case Closed for Julie Amero
Julie Amero, the substitute teacher subjected to a judicial roller coaster ride over whether she intentionally exposed a group of students to inappropriate computer images, ended her legal limbo by agreeing to a plea deal this Friday. It’s the end of a long road for Amero, but was justice served?
It’s been a long road indeed for Amero, whom I’ve been covering on this blog ever since she was convicted in January 2007 by a Connecticut jury on charges of exposing students to pornographic images while subbing in a classroom. According to prosecutors, Amero had intentionally displayed the images on a computer, willfully disregarding her responsibility to protect her students. Unfortunately, no one bothered to examine the hard drive or get a computer security expert to testify during the trial. A group of experts who conducted their own investigation after the trial concluded she was a victim of malware – software that covertly made its way onto the computer without her knowledge to wreak havoc on the machine. And the security tools the school used to protect against such attacks just happened to be down at the time of Amero’s stint in the classroom. Nonetheless, she was convicted and faced jail time.
In June of 2007, the evidence collected by the security experts supporting the malware scenario was so strong that a judge decided to set aside Amero’s conviction. That could have been the end of the matter, but prosecutors decided they would continue to press for another trial. Now, almost 18 months later, Amero and prosecutors have reached a deal to settle the matter. Prosecutors agreed to drop all felony charges against her; in return, Amero pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice, paid a $100 fine and surrendered her teaching license.
“Oh honey, it’s over. I feel wonderful,” Amero, 41, said a few minutes after accepting the deal, according to Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green. “The Norwich police made a mistake. It was proven. That makes me feel like I’m on top of the world.” Meanwhile, according to Green, prosecutors stand by their original position that Amero was guilty. “I have no regrets,” prosecutor Michael Regan told him. “Things took a course that was unplanned. Unfortunately the computer wasn’t examined properly by the Norwich police…. For some reason this case caught the media’s attention,” Regan said.
Like Amero said, the case is indeed over. But this doesn’t change the fact that the whole matter has been a series of failures. Failure by the school to keep its security filters functioning. Failure by the district to ensure that all teachers, including substitute teachers have the computer literacy to respond to the problem. Failure by the police and prosecutors to conduct a proper forensic investigation of the computer itself. And because of these failures, a teacher will never be able to step foot in the classroom again. It’s closure for Julie Amero, but is it justice? -andy