Friday, January 26, 2007

Julie Amero was the scapegoat.

Here is an update on the case of Julie Amero the 7th grade substitute teacher facing 40 years in jail because the local police have zero idea how to investigate her crime: she was alleged to have allowed students to see images of nudity on her classroom computer. She contends that she went to a site on hair styling and that porn pop-up ads starting appearing and she couldn’t shut them down. She is now awaiting sentencing.

In the meantime the school admits that they screwed up. According to one Connecticut paper Robert Hartz, the school district’s information systems director, “blamed himself for the computer pornography incident, saying he may have overlooked an invoice for the update.” That would be the invoice for the update for the software which would have blocked the pop-ups. The school was still running Widows 98, the firewall license expired, and they had no anti-virus or anti-spyware software.

If the school district had done its job the incident couldn’t have happened and Julie Amero wouldn’t be facing 40 years in prison, she would be 80 years old when she got out!

It also appears that the prosecutors didn’t really think they had a case against the teacher since they were very quick to offer her no prison time if she admitted guilt. Normally this sort of plea bargain, with no prison time, is offered when prosecutors are not very sure of the guilt of the person they are prosecuting. Perhaps a good sign they ought to drop the case instead!

Amero, however, apparently held a naive view of justice and thought that if she was innocent she ought to turn down the deal and fight it out in court. She did and the jury apparently didn’t grasp the complexity of the issue and an computer expert who came to testify on her behalf says he was prevented from by the court from doing so adequately.

What is more disturbing, and something I have not seen mentioned elsewhere, is that the school had a problem with porn on the computers before Julie Amero was asked to substitute in the English class. Here is some information from a blog dedicated to education. The author claims:

In June and July of 2004, before Julie's experience, the Griswold Middle School had an infestation of pornography that caused local authorities to seize a computer and hard drives. A student printed a nude image to take home in their backpack! Funny how no prosecution took place in those cases.

It is inexcusable that no action was taken to upgrade the protective software at that time (they had the summer to do it). And it explains why nobody thought much of Amero's experience at the time, essentially telling her "not to worry about it."

What this adds up to however is grounds for a mistrial since the community responsible was well aware of computer pornography being present on school district computers yet prosecuted Amero under the pretense that she was the menace to society.

This woman has been cruelly maligned because of the lack of honesty and integrity on the part of everyone involved with the prosecution of this case. Everybody apparently KNEW BETTER than to believe this woman intentionally accessed those sites or that such an incident was unusual in the school setting.

More and more it is looking like Julie Amero was a scapegoat for the inept policy of the school district. They let the blocking software lapse. Amero says she told others about problems of porn on the computer and nothing was done about it. And now we are told that the computers at the school had this very problem before she worked there.

The entire rebuttal of the prosecution about all of this is that she is guilty because she didn’t simply pull the plug. First, if the images are popping up your first instinct is to try to close the screens. Second, you try to quit the program. The very last thing you do is simply pull the plug as this can cause damage to your system. And one would be particularly reticent of pulling the plug on a computer that you don’t own!

Julie Amero is the victim of inept police and bad laws which were passed by idiots who don’t understand the actual problem they were trying to solve. It is also a good time to remember what Mark Twain said: “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”