Internet

Julie Amero's Denouement

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Amero is the 40-year-old Connecticut substitute teacher convicted in January 2007 of four felony "corrupting a minor" charges when the computer she was using in front of her middle school class began opening a loop of pornographic pop-up windows.  She faced a possible 40-year sentence.  I wrote a short piece about her in our May 2007 issue:

As she tried to close the ads, the loops only intensified. She says some sort of adware or malicious software on her computer caused the pop-up ads to appear; such infections were indeed found on the computer later, including the Web address of a seemingly innocuous hairdressing site that spun off the loop of porn ads that Amero described in her defense. The school had filtering software on all of its computers but had let the software licenses expire, rendering the filters useless. The prosecution later conceded that Amero's computer was never even tested for malware.

The state's expert witness, a computer crimes investigator with the Norwich Police Department, testified that because the URLs for the offending sites were "highlighted," Amero must have deliberately clicked on them. Yet none of the major Web browsers requires a mouse click to highlight a link; any address that has been loaded by the browser, which happens whenever a pop-up window opens, will show up as "visited."

When Amero's case hit the Internet early last year, tech experts across the country quickly recognized what had happened, and dozens volunteered to aid in her defense.  A state judge granted her a new trial in June of last year after he was presented with evidence from actual experts (as opposed to the Norwich Police Department's badly misinformed computer crimes investigator) that the computer had been infected.  Yet the state's prosecutors stuck to their guns.

Finally last week, the state of Connecticut dropped the four felony counts against Amero.  But her vindication isn't quite complete.  As part of the plea, Amero still had to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, pay a $100 fine, and will have to forgo her teaching license in Connecticut.  She has also been hospitalized from stress and a heart condition brought on by the whole ordeal.  Incredibly, some public officials in Connecticut still insist she's guilty of knowingly corrupting minors with porn.  Here's Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green:

New London County State's Attorney Michael Regan told me late Friday the state remained convinced Amero was guilty and was prepared to again go to trial.

"I have no regrets. Things took a course that was unplanned. Unfortunately the computer wasn't examined properly by the Norwich police," Regan said.

"For some reason this case caught the media's attention," Regan said.

Another state's prosecutor, David Smith, apparently also said at the hearing that, "the State felt that they had enough of a case, but that due to Julie's declining health, that he and William Dow had agreed to a lesser charge."  How generous of them.

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  1. Let me guess: Windows PC, right?

  2. I swear, I wouldn’t have moved here if I’d known it was the Mississippi of the north.

  3. I’m in favor of a new rule for prosecutors: if the case turns out this embarrassing, the jury can imprison the prosecutor for as many years as the proposed sentence for the defendant. Call it the “I had to miss work to listen to that bullshit” Rule.

    I think I might make start getting a petition together to make it a law in Arizona. We’ll pass damn near anything.

  4. jon-Thing is, a jury voted to convict her the first time.

  5. I’m surprised Holy Joe Lieberman didn’t intervene on this poor woman’s behalf. I hear he’s always looking out for the little man in that way…

  6. a jury voted to convict her the first time.

    Because expert witnesses testified there was no way those porn sites could’ve come up accidentally.

    How about charging the expert witness for perjury?

  7. How about charging the expert witness for perjury?

    A whole bunch of this.

    Either the guy should be in jail for perjury or he should be summarily fired for gross negligence and fraud.

  8. “For some reason this case caught the media’s attention,” Regan said.

    Words fail. You, sir, deserve to be tarred and feathered and then run out on a rail.

  9. Jesus said that the heart of the law is mercy, but it hardly ever shows up. My heart goes out to poor Julie Amero.

  10. I’m in favor of a new rule for prosecutors: if the case turns out this embarrassing, the jury can imprison the prosecutor for as many years as the proposed sentence for the defendant.

    I’d call that the Nifong law.

    -jcr

  11. Why oh why? Apart from the human decency/empathy/honor aspect, is the incentive for prosecutors to convict so much greater than the contempt and ridicule they invite?

  12. Like other states, Connecticut has assholes.

  13. New London County State’s Attorney Michael Regan told me late Friday the state remained convinced Amero was guilty and was prepared to again go to trial.

    “I have no regrets. Things took a course that was unplanned. Unfortunately the computer wasn’t examined properly by the Norwich police,” Regan said.

    “For some reason this case caught the media’s attention,” Regan said.

    That reason might be something like –
    These fucking idiots just ruined this woman’s life with an incompetent investigation that almost any 14 year old male* could have done better. To compund the this increibly moronic fuck-up some dumbass State’s Attorney (i’m looking at your arrogant cocksucking face Michael Regan) continues to slander the poor woman because you’re too goddam proud to admit that YOU DON’T FUCKING KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE DOING!

    Here’s New London County State’s Attorney Michael Regan contemplating a criminal case.

    Goddam, this piece of pig manure is pushing assholery to new heights. If anybody has this dipshit bastard’s E-mail addresss, please, in the name of all that is righteous, send him a link to this article at reason.com. [https://www.reason.com/blog/show/130227.html#comments]

    Call the imbecilic fucktard’s attention to the comments section because I may just be the least vitriolic one posting.

    * Pop up porn ads? Yeah, 14 year old boys know all about them.

  14. Just as it is the job of the defense to help the guilty go free the prosecution is tasked with convicting the innocent.

  15. I love how apparently everyone pushing for this conviction acts like they had no idea pop-up porn ads like that existed. I refuse to believe that not one person in the courthouse knew what was going on. I’m actually quite sure all the investigaters knew exactly what had happened and pushed for a conviction anyway, probably just to appease angry parents.

    And what does it really matter if a bunch of middle school kids accidentally catch a few glimpses of something they’re going to see plenty of in the next few years anyway? Seriously, if the teacher had done it ON PURPOSE it still wouldn’t require a 40 year sentence. A fine and getting fired, okay. Forty years of prison?!?

    I went to the Federal Reserve bank in Kansas City when I was in 8th grade and the men working there were ALL looking at porn on their computers when they were supposed to be doing their jobs. And I and my fellow 8th graders all saw it while our lousy guide was oblivious to why we were ignoring her. Maybe the Ron Paulians should should take the Fed to court for corrupting our youth and get the whole system shut down…

  16. Tangentially, we’re in a strange period, when the people at the age to hold responsible positions in government don’t know how to use the internet, while everyone below them does.

    This about all of the steps when this little drama could have been averted by somebody having a reasonable level of operational understanding of the internet.

  17. I second the proposal for the “I missed my job to listen to this bullshit” law. Except that the penalty for conviction should be execution within 90 days.

  18. I’ve had the pop-up porn ad “problem”. Except I’m not nearly as fast in clicking it off. By a few minutes.

  19. (i’m looking at your arrogant cocksucking face Michael Regan)

    This is a cosmotarian site, J sub D. Derogatory references to Teh Gaiz are frowned upon (standard libertarian disclaimer about dickish comments being rudely tolerated blah blah blah). :o)

  20. jcr,
    Oh yeah, and Nifong should also suffer summary execution. Except that ex post facto laws are unconstitutional. Still, that might at least shut down these assholes.

    Connecticut: Proof that the South isn’t the only place you’ll find insane assholes.

  21. prolefeed,
    It’s still okay to insult other men by referring to them as cocksuckers. I would hate to live in a world where that was frowned upon.

  22. It’s still okay to insult other men by referring to them as cocksuckers. I would hate to live in a world where that was frowned upon.

    Like the Castro in San Francisco? OK, there it would be subject to mockery or ribald comments rather than frowns …

  23. Wow. So Connecticut managed to pull together a judge, prosecutors, law enforcement agents, and at least 12 random adults, none of whom have the foggiest idea how computers work.

    I sure hope Mr. Regan’s daughter never hits the web looking for information on how to make a “cream pie”.

  24. missed an ‘e’ in denouement.

  25. joe,

    I hear ya. But between the defense expert witness not being able to testify and then the prosecutor looking to retry the case, its looks a lot more like vindictiveness than and error of not knowing how the internet works.

  26. Without the power of the internet, this case might not have received the proper attention.

    We’re just beginning to witness a new form of justice and rights protection.

  27. It’s not he fault someone filled up the school’s tubes with pr0n.

  28. “Just as it is the job of the defense to help the guilty go free the prosecution is tasked with convicting the innocent.”

    Correction: it is the job of the defense to force the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the prosecution’s job to seek justice. For example, “It shall be the primary duty of all prosecuting attorneys, including any special prosecutors, not to
    convict, but to see that justice is done.” Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 2.01

    I’m assuming you were breaking down the bullshit and telling it like it really is, and you are correct in that sense. But since all-costs convictions are explicitly against a prosecutor’s legal duty, we need to nail these people.

  29. It is primary job of the prosecutor to never, ever admit they might be wrong. There are only three types of infallible beings in the Universe – God, the Pope when making ex-cathedra pronouncements, and prosecutors.

  30. …a dogmatic teaching on faith or morals as being contained in divine revelation.

  31. “If anybody has this dipshit bastard’s E-mail addresss,…”

    Michael L Regan ? (860) 443-2835 ? michael.l.regan@po.state.ct.us

  32. What bothers me about these horrid situations is not that they’re convicted, not that they run into this kind of institutional hard-headedness, but that these situations get charges and prosecutions in the first place.

    I mean, take it back to the very beginning…how dumb do must the officer feel when he’s slapping the cuffs on these people?

  33. 1) How did they find “expert witnesses” willing to testify for the prosecution in this case?

    OK, I know the answer to that, but still.

    2) Didn’t the defense manage to get some real expert witnesses in there? How did the defense’s experts _not_ prevail?

  34. going to contact that attorney’s office and give him a piece of my mind

    Michael L. Regan, State’s Attorney
    70 Huntington Square New London, CT 06320
    (860) 443-2835

  35. I’ve never done so before, and it’s an intercontinental call for me, but I just have to call this guy and let him know that he gets my write-in vote for Biggest Douche in the Universe.

  36. While this is fucked up, I find the cases where teenagers are being charged for molesting themselves even more fucked up.

  37. I had a tenured, PHded, English professor pronounce it “dee-now-mint” in class. I never let him live it down.

  38. Michael Regan really is a grade a cocksucker isn’t he. Of course he can’t be blamed at for all of it. Take the idea that the State can charge you then these spineless fuck judges can actual limit your defense.

    Oh, and I love the idea of this rule:

    I’m in favor of a new rule for prosecutors: if the case turns out this embarrassing, the jury can imprison the prosecutor for as many years as the proposed sentence for the defendant. Call it the “I had to miss work to listen to that bullshit” Rule.

  39. “For some reason this case caught the media’s attention,” Regan said.

    This is infuriating. He’s pissed that anybody would have the audacity to question his decision.

  40. It is fucking amazing how people (a jury) will be OK with putting someone in jail for forty fucking years because some kids saw some nudes/sex. It is so insanely Puritan that it boggles the mind.

    Oh wait, we’re in Connecticut here, land of the Puritans. My bad.

  41. So this happened in Connecticut, one of the bluest states in the nation, where the Dems show their vaunted concern for civil liberties?
    I could understand b.s. like this coming from Huckabee’s Arkansas, but Connecticut? Of course, there is the Amirault case precedent from Massachusetts. Just tired of the lip service paid until the rubber actually meets the road.

  42. Honey, ACT-UP sucks.

  43. Whoops, wrong thread.

  44. It would be just *tragic*, wouldn’t it, if Regan and Smith’s computers were infected with a virus that caused a cascade of hydra-headed pop-up porn ads to appear every time, say, they typed the word “defendant” in an e-mail or an MS Word document? I’m totally not urging anyone to hack into their computers and insinuate such malware. Because, as Richard Nixon would have said, “that would be wrong.”

  45. I like Seamus’s idea. That would be an act of poetic justice.

  46. Terrance and Philip will not be released. They are going to be put on trial for corrupting America’s youth.

  47. I agree with most of the comments above, but the stupidity over the mal-ware is not what confuses me the most. 40 years for showing porn in front of children(Middle School where I remember only talking about sex at lunch)? The worst she should of gotten if she indeed showed porn with intent is fired. It is that irrational fear of children getting access to the sex content they want that is the root cause of this prosecutors overzealousness.

  48. “I went to the Federal Reserve bank in Kansas City when I was in 8th grade and the men working there were ALL looking at porn on their computers when they were supposed to be doing their jobs.”

    That would explain a lot.

    “I swear, I wouldn’t have moved here if I’d known it was the Mississippi of the north.”

    “Connecticut: Proof that the South isn’t the only place you’ll find insane assholes.”

    “I could understand b.s. like this coming from Huckabee’s Arkansas, but Connecticut? Of course, there is the Amirault case precedent from Massachusetts.”

    Today on H&R: When Stereotypes and Reality Collide.

  49. Don’t they have sex-ed in middle schools in Conn.? Couldn’t this be considered “extra credit”?

  50. and the answer is “They do now.”

  51. It is fucking amazing how people (a jury) will be OK with putting someone in jail for forty fucking years because some kids saw some nudes/sex. It is so insanely Puritan that it boggles the mind.

    Especially when you consider that when the teachers actually sleep with their students, they don’t get nearly that much time.

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