Teacher forced into computer-porn plea deal despite proof prosecutor, IT manager misled court

Connecticut teacher Julie Amero, accused of showing porn to students, has accepted a misdemeanor plea deal to avoid felony charges, despite proof of her innocence. The deal lets her avoid a previously-imposed jail sentence.

The deal, in which she surrenders her teaching credentials, comes despite a forensic report showing she was not reponsible for the infection of pornographic pop-up windows on the computer in question, and that the school district's IT manager, detectives and prosecutors misled the court.

Amero's motive is obvious: the alternative could have meant spending decades in jail on felony pornography charges.

As for the school district, detectives and prosecutors, however, there is no way to be equivocal about what they've done: they deceived jurors at the culmination of a bullying and inexcusable campaign against a woman whose innocence is overwhelmingly obvious.

Wired's Threat Level blog obtained a copy of the unreleased report (Julie Amero technical review - PDF), which finds that the school's IT manager bullshitted investigators, that the computer in question had no effective anti-malware provisions, and was infested. The distict's software licenses had expired and the jury was also misled in the original case.

Excepts from the report follow:The computer system was hopelessly obsolete and vulnerable to infection:

Our analysis of the physical evidence showed that the system was running Windows 98 ... running Internet Explorer 6.0.2800.1106IC. The system had previously been a Windows 95 system that had been upgraded to Windows 98. The system’s antivirus software was a trial version of Cheyenne AntiVirus (“Cheyenne AntiVirus for Windows 95 v4.00- Live trial build 048”). The antivirus definitions were at least three months out of date3. Furthermore, the antivirus definitions were themselves not updated regularly. ... Antispyware or client firewall software was not found on the system. In addition, there
was no popup blocking technology. Finally, as was testified at the trial, the school’s content filter’s subscription had expired (reportedly for several months4).

Bob Hartz, IT Manager for Norwich Public Schools, helped prosecutors midlead the court:

During his testimony, the prosecutor and Hartz referred to the Temporary Internet Files directory, ... [which] suggested that Amero intentionally accessed websites whose contents were cached in the
directory.

...

The prosecutor and Hartz also discussed Hartz’s analysis of the school’s firewall logs. It should be noted that these logs merely provide a listing of sites accessed, whether intentionally visited or not.

Hartz misled the court on how frequently he had anitivirus software updated.

Hartz testified that the computer had updated virus protection and that it was updated weekly. ... However, according to the system’s antivirus update log8, the virus signatures were last updated on 8/31/2004. ... Hartz’s statement that the antivirus engine was updated weekly is physically impossible.

Here's a doozy: Hartz suggested that adware and spyware cannot visit websites by itself.

Question: Does spyware and adware generate pornography?
Answer: Not to the best of my knowledge.

Forensic analysis disclosed that adware program “newdotnet” was installed on the system. In addition, adware programs have been well documented to generate popups containing pornographic material.

Detective Mark Lounsbury used poor software to conduct his forensic analysis, and didn't even check it for ad-ware:

Lounsbury testified that he solely relied on ComputerCop Professional for his forensic analysis. By the company’s own admission, the program is incapable of determining whether a site was visited intentionally or accidentally. ... A proper forensic examination should do many other things, including looking at the firewall logs, which contain the complete history of all pages visited, and also of blocked pages

Lounsbury and the prosecutor made false claims to the court:

Lounsbury testified that a change in link color (specifically, the color red) indicates that someone intentionally viewed a site. This was further heavily emphasized by the prosecutor in the closing arguments.

...

"You have to type it in, and that is when the address comes in. You don’t get a mark in the temporary Internet folder unless you actively go to that site. I believe I made that clear with him."

...

However, this claim made is incorrect, for a number of reasons.

Jurors were show porn that was never displayed on the computer in question, but rather hand-picked by prosecutors:

On multiple occasions during Lounsbury’s testimony, pornographic images apparently captured through ComputerCop were displayed on the screen, which were ostensibly taken from the Temporary Internet Files directory. These were simply displayed as pornographic images for the jurors, which may have lead the jurors to believe that Amero intentionally displayed pornographic material to students. In fact, we found that the images displayed had little relevance to the images actually seen by the children.

The computer was used after being taken out of the classroom Amero subbed in, but before being seized:

Hartz testified that the system was turned off within days of October 19th, 2004; that he took the computer out of the classroom by the 22nd to the principal’s office and got Mr Napp another PC. However, our analysis shows that the system was actively in use until approximately 1:43 PM on October 26th, 2006 (on the second third of testimony, the
October 26th date was made clear by Detective Lounsbury). This use included internet browsing ... This contradicts Hartz’s statement
that the whole computer was removed to the office for safe keeping.

Other nonsense uttered in court included claims that there were no automatic pop-ups appearing on the sytem and that javascript cannot generate links.

And here's the final, brilliant kicker: the computer in question is a Gateway machine, but the system imaged for the court was a Dell. Again: It's not even clear if the computer seized was the one Amero used.

What it comes down to is whether you buy the hypothesis that a 37-year old female teacher with health trouble is going to sit in a classroom deliberately visiting the direct URLS of porn pop-up windows and showing them to children.

A big "thank you" goes out to Bob Hartz, Mark Lounsbury and the prosecutors in this case, whose commitment to truth helped convict her. Well done, gentlemen! Clap clap clap.

Photo: Courant.com

Connecticut drops felony charges against Julie Amero, four years after her arrest [Courant]

Proof: Porn Pop-Up Teacher is Innocent, Despite Misdemeanor Plea [Wired:Threat Level]

Published by Rob Beschizza

Follow Rob @beschizza on Twitter.

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20 Comments

  1. Of all the pathetic excuses for justice. The poor woman is railroaded by her superiors simply because they did not want to face up to their incompentencies. And the system went along for the ride. Where is her support from the teacher’s union. Or even from people who want to see justice done.

    This is a huge breach of justice, but more often than not it seems to be where the American justice system is going. I hope that she can get someone to acquit her, and then sue the school board trustees out of their jobs.

  2. Well what do you expect.
    Put a computer-doofus in the judges chair, put a bunch of computer-doofuses in the jury, put a man that get’s paid more for winning in the prosecutors place, and voilá: you have justice.

  3. sometimes I really, really think a few judges should face personal vengeance from those who’s lives they’ve ruined.

  4. Dear god–as a substitute teacher myself, this is terrifying. For what little it may accomplish, I am emailing Connecticut’s Governor Jodi Rell’s office to urge her to issue a pardon for Amero.

  5. Even if she’s pardoned, she’ll forever be on a sex offender’s list, and decades of her life are down the drain.

    Hey, Y’all know that wonderful notion of using a computer to teach in the classroom and having bright, intelligent young men and women become teachers?

    Yeah. No-one with half a brain will ever again turn on a computer in front of kids – much less become a teacher – lest they be cavity-searched & pumped-and-dumped by the sex-repressive Neo-Luddite fascists in the United States government.

  6. Oh come on this is ludicrous, there must be something we or someone can do. Since I’ve started visiting this site I’ve petitioned and written to more government agencies than I can remember, and frankly I want to see some justice.

  7. I too have been the victim of over-zealous cops who accused me in their relentless search for people to corruptly charge with false offences. I stuck to my guns and went to court, AND WON ON THE DAY! That didn’t stop the media from publishing my name (albeit just a local rag), however my life is over, my reputation is shot. They didn’t publish the results when the cops got caught out trying to say legitimate porn was illegal child porn! They didn’t get busted for violating my human rights. They didn’t get busted for assaulting me during the search. They didn’t get busted for the mistreatment at the watch house.Not even a ‘sorry’ for the misery they caused me.Lets hope the cops in this case get what’s coming to them! But somehow, I seriously doubt it. Crook cops always seem to just get away with it don’t they!!!

  8. Can’t Amero or someone (EFF maybe?) sue Hartz and the cops for perjury? They have obviously submitted false evidence. The fact that the computer was not isolated on the date they said it was and the fact that a different brand of computer was presented in court should be enough to get the case thrown out shouldn’t it..??

    But no, this is the Land of the Fear and the Home of the Scared. Better to keep the fear factor ratcheted up by making parents believe that their kids are being subjected to porn in school. Yikes. Maybe they’ll be abducted by pedophiles on their way home too. Never mind that they more likely to be corrupted by an education system that teaches to a test rather than teaches them to think or that they are in more danger from a road traffic accident…

  9. Sounds like a news from IRAQ in 2020 with integralists running the “Free Al Qaeda Cyber Republic of IRAQ”…

  10. this doesnt surprise me, dont expect competent teachers in our schools anytime soon, the golden age of teaching is over. i know a hand full of very competent bright teachers that have left the public school system and now teach part time at comunity colleges. no one that i know in my peer group wants to teach anymore because our teachers get no respect very little money, have to pay out of pocket for teaching materials. not to mention the sham of “assistance” toward first time teacher homebuyers who only recieve assistance towards purchasing a house as long as its in a crime ridden neighborhood. this is a small part of an icommpetent ssault on teachers and the already hopeless k-12 public school system.

    note to the moderator: sorry for the run on sentences or self righteous indignation let me indulge for just a bit ok? thanx 🙂

  11. I am amazed it even went that far. The evidence was not handled correctly, and I suspect there is no proper chain of custody established. The evidence was obviously tainted, and, it appears discovery was impaired. IANAL, but these points say to me, at least, that the case should have been thrown out in the first place, much less continuing to a resolution.

  12. It would be satisfying if the New London prosecutor (Michael Regan) were to have his pc similarly infected though I expect they keep their protection much more up to date. I’m surprised given the laxity of the school systems defenses there haven’t been other infections. I wonder if any analysis was done on the other pc’s in the school with regard to the currency of the protection in place.

    I would think Mr.Hartz would be a plum target for a suit for damages based on his false testimony.

  13. Here is another case from 2003 with many publications in mainstream medias
    My name is Fima Fimovich
    I live in Minneapolis, MN
    I came to US as political refugee on human rights violations in former USSR
    I am russian jew, and I got a lot of discrimination in USSR
    My parents are Holocaust survivors.
    But I got the worst thing in USA, never possible in communist country.
    I was set up with my computer, convicted as a s..x offender for computer p..rn.
    I would like to send you some links to publications about my criminal
    case. I was forced to confess to the
    possession of internet digital pictures of p..rn in deleted clusters
    of my computer hard drive. My browser was hijacked while I was
    browsing the web. I was redirected to illegal sites against my will.
    Some illegal pictures were found on my hard drive, recovering in
    unallocated clusters, without dates of file creation/download.

    I do not know how courts can widely press these charges on people to
    convict them, while the whole Internet is a mess.

    I was fired from many jobs, and I am out of job for 5 years.
    Also police watch me all the time naming me a predator,
    I am not a predator, I came here in hope to escape human rights violations,
    but I got copletely terrible violations by government.

    You can find all links to publications about my case here

    http://estrinyefim.newsvine.com/_news/2007/06/23/798199-internet-porn-hysteria

  14. Law: (definition) Through force, The ability of 1 or more groups, to exert control & impose it’s will on another group or groups.
    It’s cases like this that in my opinion, completely nullify any authority this legal system has. This woman is innocent. The second this judge, DA,etc lied & withheld evidence, they ultimately destroyed any legal legitimacy they might have had. Not only should the people take the law into their own hands, and not only do they have the right, but I believe it is a patriotic duty, and an obligation. That is if there is to be any semblance of justice left, for anybody in this country. The people should make a formal proclamation of intent to deputize themselves, and formally declare the “legal” proceedings void. Then proceed to arrest and charge everybody involved in the judicial rape of this woman. If just once, in this manner, people stood up to the injustice, the lies, and the corruption, though the outcome may not go in their favor, ultimately, it might open some eyes, and start some type of change. At least let the corrupt know we refuse to tolerate injustice any longer, and their will be consequences.

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