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
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.
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.
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]