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.