Pharyngula

Here’s a tragic story: a teacher convicted.

The six-person jury Friday … convicted Amero, 40, of Windham of four counts of risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child. It took them less than two hours to decide the verdict. She faces a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

Her crime? A computer in her classroom got caught in a porn spam pop-up loop (you know what they are, especially if you’re using that awful MS Internet Explorer—windows automatically open to spam sites as fast as you can close them). It’s easily fixed by using a decent browser or resetting the computer or even yanking the cord out of the wall, but Amero was apparently not very skilled with a computer, and was flustered as well. And for that, she may serve a few years in prison.

It is the 21st century, after all — lack of expertise with a computer is a crime, here in the future.

Oh, hang on—she isn’t being punished for computer illiteracy, it’s for impairing the morals of a child. That is, a bunch of seventh graders.

I know seventh graders. I remember being one. Middle school kids are a bunch of confused, sneaky, dirty-minded little bastards, and it would take a lot more than punching up internet porn to impair their morals; I suspect a fair number of the kids in that classroom knew more about the computer than Ms Amero, had been peeking at easily available porn before and after this event, and some of them are probably snickering about sending a teacher up the river for something they do routinely.

It takes a real prude to think flashing nude pictures at a seventh grader is going to corrupt them.

Let’s assume, though, that the entire classroom was occupied by naive little angels, perfect children with tousled curls who say their prayers at night and have been chemically neutered by their parents to suppress those burgeoning hormones. Then what? Do they get turned into sex maniacs by exposure to a bare breast or crotch? That’s an awfully low opinion of children these jurors had, or perhaps they just assumed a greater fragility than I can imagine.

This is a case of insane anti-porn hysteria, a grossly uninformed jury, and incompetence—the school district had let their filtering software lapse, and the police hadn’t even bothered to check the computer for adware. I am appalled that such a trivial error would have the consequence of sending someone to prison for years. This is not justice, this is lunacy.

I suggest that if the jurors really need a scapegoat for the uncontrolled spread of internet porn and the existence of sloppy and easily hijacked software, that it would be more appropriate (and perhaps just as injust) to send Bill Gates to jail.

Comments

  1. #1 j
    February 3, 2007

    Oh, what a lovely legal system we have. This is appalling.

  2. #2 Steven
    February 3, 2007

    Is this story actually real? I live in Scotland so I don’t get so I am not versed in this story but it seems almost unbelievable. Surely it will get overturned.

  3. #3 Cat of Many Faces
    February 3, 2007

    My god this is horrifying.

    Well, that’s another town i’m never going to go to, or even pass through.

    absolutely sickening.

    And we wonder why we have a problem getting enough teachers.

  4. #4 mcsciteacher
    February 3, 2007

    Given that in addition to science, I teach a couple of computer classes to 7th-9th grade students, this scares the shit out of me. I mean, people aren’t so batshit looney around here in the Seattle area, but sheesh.

  5. #5 dorid
    February 3, 2007

    Funny, if anyone is to blame, it shouldn’t be the teacher, but the school for letting their filtering system expire. Sadly, I’ve seen these kind of pop ups happen on all sorts of kid friendly sites in the past.

    This is just another example of teachers taking the heat for administrative incompetence.

  6. #6 Ichthyic
    February 3, 2007

    wait…

    a 6 person jury?

    how does that happen?

  7. #7 cory
    February 3, 2007

    When this story first surfaced,I read a comment that really struck me. If this crap keeps up, it is going to be hard to find competent people to work in any capacity in any school where the students are under eighteen. Only actual pederasts will apply.

    Web porn is set to become the new satanic ritual abuse; a career-maker for cops and prosecutors and damned the innocent lives ruined.

  8. #8 K
    February 3, 2007

    I don’t blame the jury (all juries are perilous), but rather the prosecutor. Who initiated this fricking brainless action? What evil is being caged here?

  9. #9 Orac
    February 3, 2007

    Surely it will get overturned.

    Don’t count on it. We have thousands of people rotting in prison for years for minor drug offenses.

  10. #10 Steven Bandyk
    February 3, 2007

    My friend has read more background on this than I. Apprently the Teacher presented as part of her defense, her requests to the Principal and IT group to fix this problem. She proactively tried to prevent this and she STILL was found guilty. Holy Crap.

    I work in EDU IT and I know how sneaky students can be. I know from experience where the infections came from. I also know from experience that their IT group is completely incompetent fo this. Where’s the patching and policy management and maintenance?

    If this page were to get back to her or her legal team I would suggest that they immediately file civil suit against the School District and the Principal and the IT staff whom she contacted. Granted I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that there is clear neglence. She tried to do the same thing and the state has deemed a crime occured. She’s paying the price for the inaction of others in her School District. Nail them to the wall THEN bring up their conviction at the appeal.

  11. #11 Orac
    February 3, 2007

    Oh, and there’s also a defense fund set up to help with the appeal.

  12. #12 Carlie
    February 3, 2007

    Someone should go to every one of those juror’s houses and demonstrate just how easy it is to get trapped in the pop-up porn loop… then leave without fixing the problem, and let them figure out how to solve it.

    I have to hope that it will be overturned on appeal, and that she will then file a suit for emotional damage against the school.

  13. #13 SB
    February 3, 2007

    Oh my goodness; this is true? Insane!

    I used to teach seventh graders and I think it far more likely they would impair my morals than the other way around.

  14. #14 Roy
    February 3, 2007

    If your 2nd grade daughter’s home computer is running slow, it may be storing and distributing kiddie porn. Now imagine the storm troopers smashing down your doors, ‘pronating’ everyone (violently attacking while threatening with immediate execution by gunfire), and then hauling away everyone in handcuffs, including the computer owner — your chile — and seizing truckloads of ‘evidence’ — and that’s only the opening act of the nightmare.

    At the same time, the best known collector, distributor, and seller — yes, seller — of kiddie porn is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They seem to think it is legal and moral for them to possess hundreds of thousands of obscene images, which they use for ‘training’ (wink-wink), ‘research’ (nudge-nudge), and entrapment (dead-eyed stare).

    And law enforcement and the judiciary are 99% on the wrong side here: they are enemies of the people.

  15. #15 craig
    February 3, 2007

    About to donate, but before I do, can anyone personally vouch for the blog and fund? The email address the paypal funds go to is pretty anonymous, and the blogspot page is bare enough that really anyone could have set it all up in about 2 minutes. I’m not making any accusations at all, I’m just saying that as a complete stranger to the situation I have no way of knowing if the funds will get to her.

  16. #16 eric
    February 3, 2007

    wait…

    a 6 person jury?

    how does that happen?

    Why not? There’s nothing in the Constitution about jury size, so it’s left up to the states.

    On another note, the story engages in the usual nonsense about the maximum sentence, which would occur only if the time served for every count is made consecutive; that might happen for an outrageous murder case, but it won’t happen here.

  17. #17 Orac
    February 3, 2007

    I’m not making any accusations at all, I’m just saying that as a complete stranger to the situation I have no way of knowing if the funds will get to her.

    A valid concern. Maybe you should try leaving a comment on the blog and see if Julie’s husband is willing to do something that would assuage your proper skepticism.

  18. #18 Paul Mannering
    February 3, 2007

    I hope your legal system allows her to sue pretty much everyone from the school that allowed their computer network to operate in this manner all the way up to Bill Gates for reckless endangerment or something.

    I wonder how long this will take to become an episode of Boston Legal?

  19. #19 Randy!
    February 3, 2007

    I’m with Craig here. I’d contribute but for the assurance it’s on the up and up. This is absolutely outrageous.

    I have posted a comment on the blog asking for assurance.

  20. #20 Ichthyic
    February 3, 2007

    Why not? There’s nothing in the Constitution about jury size, so it’s left up to the states.

    yes, but it’s not as simple as you make it sound, and six person juries are pretty rare from my experience (in CA).

    http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/jurysize.html

    so it still stands out to me as odd.

  21. #21 Maureen Lycaon
    February 3, 2007

    Roy: it’s already, happened, to Matthew Bandy. Though I would like to know a source for your claim that the FBI sells child porn . . .

    PZ, I was surprised you hadn’t posted about Julie Amero’s case before now. This Slashdot article has some links for both cases, as well as a lot of passionate commentary.

  22. #22 Keanus
    February 3, 2007

    Six person juries are found in a number of states, sometimes for civil cases only but in others for criminal as well.

    The prosecutor in this case exercised extremely poor judgement, IMHO. Upon examining the original allegations he should have consulted some outside computer techies, not only his police department “expert” who’s clearly has a strong potential interest in a conviction. Mind you, I don’t know if consulted only the police “expert” but I strongly suspect so. The prosecutor must be a first cousin, if not genealogically then ethically, of the DA in Durham NC who brought the charges against the Duke lacrosse players.

  23. #23 John Marley
    February 3, 2007

    This sound like something out a bad crime drama. It’s crazy.

  24. #24 Azkyroth
    February 3, 2007

    I’d be mildly surprised if the FBI was actually selling child porn; more likely they’d be running undercover sites purporting to sell it in order to catch people stupid enough to try and buy it.

    Incidentally, what wound up happening with that Duke story? I never really followed it, but I do seem to recall some expressions of sympathy for the prosecution from elements of the liberal blogosphere…

  25. #25 JimC
    February 3, 2007

    I think this is simply an absolute tragedy. If this story is correct I simply can’t fathom how any American can justify that woman sitting in jail.

    For looking at the naked human form.

    By accident.

    I have never understood the supposed evil nature of porn. I suppose if one sits around 14 hours a day and become a vegetable to it perhaps but otherwise it seems a harmless enough diversion for most. Hell one could argue it has saved my friends marriage. They stopped having sex due to various conflicts and his daily, ahem, release got him through the tough patchs to brighter days.

    It’s just sex and naked people. Thats all. How is watching naked people have sex worse than seeing people shot at or killed? Odd world.

  26. #26 Bob
    February 3, 2007

    Oh my goodness; this is true? Insane!

    My thoughts exactly…

    Call the paper, call the mayor of Norwich, CT…

    Just let them know how stupid this whole thing is…

  27. #27 Azkyroth
    February 3, 2007

    It’s just sex and naked people. Thats all. How is watching naked people have sex worse than seeing people shot at or killed? Odd world.

    Better question:

    Has anyone ever asked one of the “protect the children” nutjobs a question like this and had a real answer, one that doesn’t reduce to either A) circular reasoning or B) half-assed attempts to shift the burden of justification?

  28. #28 squeaky
    February 3, 2007

    It is astounding, and crazy, and hard to believe. I also learned last week that Georgia’s sex offender laws are highly restrictive. Sex offenders are not allowed to live within 1000 feet of anything having to do with children, including school bus stops. In essence–they can’t live anywhere in Georgia. Before you think “that’s what they get, the slimes,” you need to realize the law applies to EVERYONE convicted of a sex offense, including one woman convicted of (consensual) lewd behavior with a fellow student when she was in high school, not to mention that tiny loophole in the laws concerning statutory rape when a high school senior can “rape” his high school sophomore girlfriend just by having consensual sex with her, even though they are both still in high school (I have a student in my class right now who is dealing with just that situation–his dreams of becoming a teacher have been destroyed because he had sex with his girlfriend, and her parents are pressing charges). It also applies to sex offenders who are in nursing homes, confined to wheel chairs, and in hospice centers. Laws that protect our children are important, but they also need to make sense. And in both of these cases, people are having their lives ruined by nonsensical solutions to very real problems.

  29. #29 BossyJoe
    February 3, 2007

    Delurking…

    Not sure about other areas, but here in King County (WA state county containing Seattle) six person juries are used for some minor criminal trials. I sat on a six person (well, seven with the alternate) jury for a DWI case.

    As for this case…absolutely horrifying. I’m a software engineer and have worked on major public web sites. I know how this stuff works, and I still get caught in these if I’m not careful. I’m not sure how any teacher with an Internet connected computer can be expected to keep it clean if the required filters are not installed/working.

  30. #30 Steve Watson
    February 3, 2007

    On another note, the story engages in the usual nonsense about the maximum sentence, which would occur only if the time served for every count is made consecutive; that might happen for an outrageous murder case, but it won’t happen here.

    No, probably not — more likely “only” a couple of years. But even if she were lucky enough to get a suspended sentence, her life is still ruined — her teaching career is over, and she’s branded.

    Oh, and Dickens was right: the law is an ass.

    (And what’s going on with scienceblogs? This is the second time today I’ve had a comment refused (403 error), and when I made a few changes to the content, it passed!).

  31. #31 Rey Fox
    February 3, 2007

    “It’s just sex and naked people. Thats all.”

    But the children! Think of the CHILDREN!

    Oh, and their innocence! Their INNOCENCE!

  32. #32 George
    February 4, 2007

    Connecticut is doing this!? Unbelievable!

  33. #33 Mike Crichton
    February 4, 2007

    Squeaky said:
    It is astounding, and crazy, and hard to believe. I also learned last week that Georgia’s sex offender laws are highly restrictive. Sex offenders are not allowed to live within 1000 feet of anything having to do with children, including school bus stops. In essence–they can’t live anywhere in Georgia. Before you think “that’s what they get, the slimes,” you need to realize the law applies to EVERYONE convicted of a sex offense,

    To include “public” urination. When I was at Fort Stewart, there was a story in the post newspaper warning soldiers not to ever piss in the alleyways in Savannah, lest they be ticketed for Indecent Exposure, have to register as sex offenders, and therefore end their Army careers.

  34. #34 Barbara
    February 4, 2007

    Seems that the teacher must have had a student lawyer.

  35. #35 Graculus
    February 4, 2007

    Oh, and their innocence! Their INNOCENCE!

    Quite frankly, I’ve never thought of children as “innocent”. Ignorant and inexperienced is more like it.

    BTW, I recommend anyone that wishes to keep crap like this from happening to your computer to visit the nice folks at javacoolsoftware and download their freeware SpywareBlaster and SpywareGuard. Please donate if you do. These are very effective, resource-light, polite programs that prevent known malicious ActiveX from running, and block known bad websites and browser highjackers. I’ve been using them for years both at home and in commercial environments. They also work with Mozilla/FireFox.

    Because IT has better things to do than clean spyware off your machine. Really, we do.

  36. #36 George
    February 4, 2007

    About the overzealous Superintendant, Pam Aubin:

    Norwich — The Board of Education is expected to vote Tuesday to name Curriculum Director Pamela Aubin the next school superintendent.

    The board interviewed Aubin for 50 minutes Thursday night during a private session attended by 11 community members. Following the interview, the board sought input from the community members for 40 minutes before conducting its own deliberations for another 20 minutes, all behind closed doors.

    Aubin, 50, has been the leading candidate throughout much of the somewhat rocky search process that started when former Superintendent Michael Frechette accepted the Middletown superintendent’s position in May.

    “The board has reached a consensus that we’re ready to take action with respect to the candidate, Pam Aubin,” Charles Norris, the assistant school board chairman, said after the meeting.

    Aubin now earns $104,000 as curriculum director.

    http://www.zoominfo.com/people/Aubin_Pam_130466082.aspx

    ===================

    The board of education in Norwich, Conn., has elevated Pain Aubin from her position as director of curriculum and instruction, which she held for four years, to the district’s superintendency. She earlier served for two years as principal of Norwich’s Moriarty Elementary School and two years as an administrative intern in Mansfield, Conn. Aubin was an elementary school teacher and language arts specialist for the first 10 years of her career. She is enrolled in the executive leadership program at University of Connecticut.

    http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JSD/is_3_63/ai_n16108453

  37. #37 Lettuce
    February 4, 2007

    If your 2nd grade daughter’s home computer is running slow, it may be storing and distributing kiddie porn

    Sure, if it’s a Windows PC.

    What kind of person would give their second grader a Windows PC? They ought to be in jail.

    Unlikely if it’s a Linux machine and really, really unlikely if it’s a Macintosh.

  38. #38 phat
    February 4, 2007

    You know, I hadn’t thought about it much in awhile.

    I haven’t seen much of anything like this since I moved to Linux.

    Schools should probably think of moving to Linux for just this sort of thing.

    I can’t imagine there are too many things a Linux machine can’t do in a 7th grade classroom that a Windows or OS X machine can do. And it’s free.

    phat

  39. #39 George
    February 4, 2007

    Via Classically Liberal:

    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. [...] 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!

    http://freestudents.blogspot.com/2007/01/julie-amero-was-scapegoat.html

    Perhaps the overzealous Aubin should be fired.

  40. #40 phat
    February 4, 2007

    Oh, and I forgot to mention.

    This is absolutely insane!

    phat

  41. #41 Ichthyic
    February 4, 2007

    Sure, if it’s a Windows PC.

    What kind of person would give their second grader a Windows PC? They ought to be in jail.

    Unlikely if it’s a Linux machine and really, really unlikely if it’s a Macintosh.

    this is only partially correct, unfortunately.

    it would be correct to say that because of the larger installed user base (much), most spyware and malware targets the windows platform.

    it is not correct to assume that NO malware or spyware targets mac or unix boxes, hence that’s why there are commercial products available to remove malware from these platforms as well.

    regardless of what platform you use, a correctly setup firewall is always recommended, and when implemented along with a decent anti-virus and/or spyware tracker, any platform is equally limited in vulnerability.

    really, people make more out of the security holes in windows than is warranted, and downplay those that do exist in linux and OSX too.

    that can be dangerous for those who then automatically assume they are invulnerable to attack from malware if they simply use linux or OSX out of the box.

    A bit OT from the subject at hand, but consider it a public service announcement from somebody with a lot of IT experience.

  42. #42 Ichthyic
    February 4, 2007

    …damn code.

    put the first three lines in my previous post in italics, as they were quoted from a previous message.

  43. #43 Bob Dowling
    February 4, 2007

    Why are you all sounding so surprised?

    My (mercifully indirect) experience of this sort of situation in the UK was that the Police’s CID (criminal investigation division (department?)) and the CPS (crown prosecution service) were much more interested in an “easy conviction” than in the truth or justice of the situation.

    This is a ScienceBlog. Let’s consider this scientifically. We have two competing theories: (1) The police/prosecutors care about justice, and (2) the police/prosecutors care about upping their statistics for the next budget round/re-election campaign. Which theory matches the data more closely?

  44. #44 Anatoly
    February 4, 2007

    I don’t remember on which security-related blog I read about this case, but as was pointed out, the prosecution’s expert witness is an incompetent moron:

    On a projected image of the list of Web sites visited while Amero was working, Lounsbury pointed out several highlighted links.

    “You have to physically click on it to get to those sites,” Smith said. “I think the evidence is overwhelming that she did intend to access those Web sites.”

    The highlighted links in a browser page do NOT, emphatically do NOT mean that anyone clicked on those particular links specifically. They only mean (and that if they haven’t been faked by specially coloring them in HTML) that the browser visited that page, but it could have been through one of those endless pop-up pages that spring each other into action, and in fact could have happened in a background window unknown to the user.

    That expert’s false witness may have brought this incredibly unjust conviction.

    What an utterly shameful story.

  45. #45 bones
    February 4, 2007

    This “expert” syndrome is common. Look at Ted Stephens who knows the internet is a “series of tubes” and he writes internet law. I think if the town of Windham had any true charcter and conviction, they should outlaw the internet for everyone in town, that way there is no chance of any virginal cherub seeing a human body.

  46. #46 Michael H
    February 4, 2007

    Couldn’t the defendant have chosen trial by judge? In Australia where there are cases the jury is likely to misunderstand, or if you feel you will get a better hearing you can choose to forgo the jury all together (The prosecution usually has to agree though).This may have prevented the highly absurd outcome.

    On the other hand, to expect all six members of the jury to be completely unaware of the traps and pitfalls of the net requires a lack of trust in peoples intelligence and common sense that even the most misanthropic person would balk at.

    Isn’t the trial by jury, like all democratic institutions, dependant on the jury being educated to a certain standard?

  47. #47 GSB
    February 4, 2007

    “The highlighted links in a browser page do NOT, emphatically do NOT mean that anyone clicked on those particular links specifically.”

    Damn straight! The “expert” who said otherwise should be fired from whatever position of expertise he claims, and this case needs to be reviewed. Good grief, I’m a backend coder who hardly ever touches JavaScript, and even I knew that.

    Replicating this behavior is trivially simple. The code below demonstrates this, and is a common trick for ad-windowers. If you click on “cancel”, you actually open the Gulliver’s Travels link, and if you then refresh the original page, presto, the link is now hilighted as having been visited. You may need to tell your browser to “unblock” blocked content for this to work, but I’ve tested it, and it does work (assuming I didn’t mess it up when I converted it for display):

    <HTML><HEAD><TITLE>IDemo</TITLE>
    <BODY>
    <A href="http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Gulliver.html">Gulliver's

    Travels</A><BR>
    <INPUT TYPE=button VALUE="Cancel" onClick="openNewWindow()">
    <SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript">
    function openNewWindow()
    {
    window.open("http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Gulliver.html","Example");
    }
    </SCRIPT>
    </BODY>
    </HTML>

  48. #48 boojieboy
    February 4, 2007

    She should look on the bright side:

    at least they didn’t sentence her to drink hemlock.

  49. #49 Steve Watson
    February 4, 2007

    If I’d been on that jury, I guarantee it would have been hung (or acquittal, if I was persuasive enough in the jury room). The whole conviction seems to rest on the “expert”‘s claim that she deliberately accessed certain links — otherwise she’s just an innocent victim of malware (and management incompetence). Unless there’s more to this than I’ve read about, I flatly would not have believed the “expert”. How much would you bet that the prosecution deliberately screened out any jury candidate who had even a smidgen of technical knowledge?

  50. #50 David Marjanovi?
    February 4, 2007

    Now, now, we all love to hate Bill Gates, but the latest few versions of Internet Explorer do have popup blockers that are switched on by default and work.

    But… but…

    The school was still running Widows 98, the firewall license expired, and they had no anti-virus or anti-spyware software.

    …funding for schools in the USA must be even worse than I thought if they are still using Windows fucking 98 in the year 2007. Windows XP came out 6 years ago. I am dumbfounded.

  51. #51 David Marjanovi?
    February 4, 2007

    Now, now, we all love to hate Bill Gates, but the latest few versions of Internet Explorer do have popup blockers that are switched on by default and work.

    But… but…

    The school was still running Widows 98, the firewall license expired, and they had no anti-virus or anti-spyware software.

    …funding for schools in the USA must be even worse than I thought if they are still using Windows fucking 98 in the year 2007. Windows XP came out 6 years ago. I am dumbfounded.

  52. #52 BlueIndependent
    February 4, 2007

    This is truly saddening because every internet user ends up in this trap at some point. It’s happened to me before too, and I understand how often it occurs. There are so many links out there that seem harmless. The news story says nothing of how the porn loop got started, so I’d want to know that. There is little context at all in that story, so all I’m left with is a substitute teacher accidentally clicking something that started a porn loop and now she faces more jail time than some killers receive.

    And even if this teacher did it intentionally, just fire her and be done with it. Does she have a history of this? Has she been taken to court before? What was the class session about when this occurred? There are so many unanswered questions I have, it’s like the basic work has not been done to fill in the public, or to try to see if this woman is even in the wrong. This sounds like a small populace looking for a scapegoat and relying on government to take care of it, rather than addressing the real issue. I’m definitely inclined to support Ms. Amero on this. No one should ever face this kind of time in prison for such a thing.

    But “impairing morals”? How religiously motivated is that BS? The charge might as well have been “performing acts of or relating to witchcraft and sorcery”. This whole case sounds like rabid moralism from the top down. It will be a very sick injustice is this poor woman gets even community service, let alone *4 DECADES* in prison.

  53. #53 Tomas
    February 4, 2007

    Hmm, idiocracy comes to mind. Being judged by your peers seem to be harder and harder after the 3rd year of primary school if we take this jury to be representative (I sure hope not).

  54. #54 Graculus
    February 4, 2007

    Thank you Ichthyic… I am so tired of the hypocrisy vis MS. I’m platform/browser agnostic (equal opportunity mocker, actually), use whatever works for you. But you(generic) don’t have to justify your choice by being an arse about the other platforms.

    Mozilla (already know for their “security through obscurity” policy) sat on a critical flaw for over four years. When MS asked BugTraq to sit on new flaws for *a week* to allow them to issue a patch before it became common knowledge, there was a chorus of howls.

    Most of my spam comes from new Linux installs, thrown onto the web by amateurs who have been convinced that Linux is “secure”. It takes about 1-3 days for an install (any flavour of Linux or Windows) to be hijacked (see the honeypot projects). Nothing is safe. You don’t leave your keys in your car, you don’t go on the net without basic safeguards in place.

    I’ve cleaned all kinds of vicious stuff off perfectly innocent folk’s computers (I really doubt a 68 year-old lady is visiting “koreaporn.com”). Anyone that thinks that you have to actively visit a risky site to get caught is out of their frikin’ minds/so computer illiterate as to require supervision at all times.

    This “expert” syndrome is common.

    How many times have you heard some “expert” claim that “viruses cause X million/billion dollars of damage” without telling you how they got those figures? Yeah, pulled out of the nether orifice. Or the various virus panics (often hoaxes perpetuated by email) that catch folks that claim to be computer literate? etc, etc.

    And then there were all the Satanic panic “experts” that put all kinds of innocent people in jail, including at least one on death row.

  55. #55 dorkafork
    February 4, 2007

    …funding for schools in the USA must be even worse than I thought if they are still using Windows fucking 98 in the year 2007.

    Don’t want to sound like a zealot, but Linux is free.

  56. #56 Graculus
    February 4, 2007

    …funding for schools in the USA must be even worse than I thought if they are still using Windows fucking 98 in the year 2007. Windows XP came out 6 years ago. I am dumbfounded.

    They may be running hardware or software that cannot be “upgraded” to XP that they cannot afford the new version of. We have one 98 machine in the office due to an orphan printer and database of questionable compatibility with XP. Funnily enough, it is one of the most stable machine in the office (along with the Linux based Raq). More stable than the iMacs.

    Don’t want to sound like a zealot, but Linux is free.

    Are you volunteering to train everyone to use it and maintain security on it? The big issue with changing platforms is more often in training users and techs rather than the actual cost of the OS. Not to mention software compatibility issues. It’s a lot easier to switch your home computer than to switch an entire school district. As someone who is in IT, the thought makes me shudder. All those users, all those blank stares…

  57. #57 skblllzzzz
    February 4, 2007

    I thought we had big problems in education in The Netherlands, but it would seem we can’t compete….. at this time at least.

  58. #58 Hank Roberts
    February 4, 2007

    We have to remain competitive with Libya in prosecuting the innocent.
    What kind of credibility would the USA have if it were thought a sensible and reasonable country? Ever since Nixon we’ve relied on the ‘greater madman’ approach to intimidation.

  59. #59 Hank Roberts
    February 4, 2007

    We have to remain competitive with Libya in prosecuting the innocent.
    What kind of credibility would the USA have if it were thought a sensible and reasonable country? Ever since Nixon we’ve relied on the ‘greater madman’ approach to intimidation.

  60. #60 CortxVortx
    February 4, 2007

    This incident occurred in October of 2004 — and they are just now sentencing her?? Long after anyone can bring up an evidence to defend her?

    Put the jury, the prosecutor, and the school officials in prison.

    — CV

  61. #61 llewelly
    February 4, 2007

    … funding for schools in the USA must be even worse than I thought if they are still using Windows fucking 98 in the year 2007. Windows XP came out 6 years ago. I am dumbfounded.

    ‘dumbfounded’? This is entirely consistent with the rampant success of creationism in America, with the credulousness the American people evidenced toward the preposterous claims which were used to support the invasion of Iraq, – I could go on all day.

    All my life (most of it in America – minus 3 whole weeks in Canada), I’ve seen education sneered at, teachers underpaid, schools underfunded, and ignorance promoted not merely as a point of view, but as a way of life.

  62. #62 Screech
    February 4, 2007

    This concerns me that we are holding people responsible for lack of computer knowledge. In fact, I don’t understand why it can be assumed that a “reasonable” person as defined by law would be expected to have thought to (a) turn the monitor off or (b) unplug the computer.

    A “reasonable” person would have been told by their IT people to NEVER unplug or turn the computer off without proper logging off procedures. For fun, ask your computer help desk at work how bad it is to simply “unplug” the power cable on your computer at work (assuming it is networked).

    It seems to me that a “reasonable” person with less than extensive knowledge of a computer would have been too flustered, maybe panicked, to have thought of turning the monitor off. Especially since the kids would simply turn it on again when she wasn’t looking.

    I pray that my computer at work isn’t hijacked and porn put on it and it displayed at work while I am on vacation…Getting fired would be bad enough, but facing prison charges for “sexual harassment” because I wasn’t at work to shut it down would be worse. That is what this is akin to. I truly hope the appeal is granted and the conviction overturned, this is a gross abuse of our justice system. In fact, even with an innocent verdict, I’d like to see her compensated because without this mess, Ms. Amero’s life would not be in tatters, and that’s before financial losses are considered.

  63. #63 BlueIndependent
    February 4, 2007

    David Marjanovi?: “…funding for schools in the USA must be even worse than I thought if they are still using Windows fucking 98 in the year 2007. Windows XP came out 6 years ago. I am dumbfounded.”

    It’s not just schools. My dentist, who has the most technologically-advanced clinic i’ve ever seen, still runs Windows 98. I couldn’t believe it, but one day recently he had me in his office for a cleaning and he showed me his computer system. He was running *98 ON HIS OFFICE PC*. I couldn’t believe it.

    I am not at all surprised that schools still run Win9x. Heck the highschools I attended were still running 8088s with green-on-black monitors for typing class, 286SXs with 256-color monitors for CAD drafting, 286s for English, you name it. And this was in the early to mid-90s. There were no 386s, let alone a 486 with Windows 3.1 on it. Now granted, computers back then had considerably higher prices, so it makes more sense historically, but these days, Win98 might as well be Win31.

  64. #64 Rey Fox
    February 4, 2007

    “How much would you bet that the prosecution deliberately screened out any jury candidate who had even a smidgen of technical knowledge?”

    This is what seems most likely to me. In order to have “impartiality”, they likely screened everyone who knew anything about the Intertubes. Smells like bullshit from every angle.

  65. #65 Trinifar
    February 4, 2007

    I read that much of her defense was disallowed by the judge. Does anyone know more about that?

  66. #66 Monado
    February 4, 2007

    I certainly hope that she is going to appeal.

  67. #67 Bill Dauphin
    February 4, 2007

    FWIW, here’s a thread on a local (Connecticut) political blog that contains lots of information, links, and well informed local opinion on the case.

  68. #68 Bill Dauphin
    February 4, 2007

    Ooops… my embedded link doesn’t seem to be working. Here’s the URL: http://www.myleftnutmeg.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=5572

  69. #69 S Bandyk
    February 4, 2007

    I’d like to make a few comments.. I’ve been doing IT in EDU (Higher Ed) for a long time.

    Because IT has better things to do than clean spyware off your machine. Really, we do.

    I hope this isn’t the way you work. It’s not only IT’s job to clean spyware off but it’s IT’s job to make sure it doesn’t show up there in the first place. IT’s job is to keep the computer running as the tool that it is. Users should have to think about the computer as infrequently as possible.. IT is paid to make sure it ‘just works’ Period.
    End Users do have responsibilities: Don’t violate your IT Group’s policies. Listen to your IT Group/Person because they are expected to know best.

    it is not correct to assume that NO malware or spyware targets mac or unix boxes, hence that’s why there are commercial products available to remove malware from these platforms as well.

    Most of your comments are correct but this one is misleading. I’ve looked at anti-spyware software for OS X. All it does is remove tracking cookies. These are spyware (and commonly used by large public corporations) but they aren’t what we’re talking about here. As yet, I’ve not seen a single incidence of any public exploit on Mac OS X that is even remotely similar to the spyware that is common on Windows machines (background processes [programs] that spawn messages or redirect browsers).
    Buy a Mac and don’t bother with Macintosh Anti-Spyware. Just turn your pop-up block feature enabled in Safari. Also, Right now there is value in running anti-virus software on Macs but ONLY if you exchange Microsoft Word documents with Windows using colleagues. There are no Macintosh OS X viruses in the wild though Microsoft Word on the Macintosh will spread Word macro-viruses.
    It is also important to remember, as this poster mentioned, OS X and Linux have security holes just like Microsoft. There are fewer Exploits but Linux boxes and even OS X boxes do get broken into. It’s just as important as on Windows to keep your machine completely patched, and to at least do the basics { turn on the firewall, set strong passwords, don’t run any network services you don’t need (like web servers and such) }

    …funding for schools in the USA must be even worse than I thought if they are still using Windows fucking 98 in the year 2007. Windows XP came out 6 years ago. I am dumbfounded.

    I can’t say I’m surprised. A lot of areas are either not well funded or they lack any drive to keep technology current. It should be noted that Windows 98 is NOT SUPPORTED by Microsoft anymore. Running Windows 98 is pure neglegance. Microsoft will not provide security patches to Windows 98 even if you point out a critcial vulnerability to them.
    On another note, I work at a renowned Research Univesity and we run a lot of MS DOS. Granted, it’s because the machines are hooked up to custom apparatus running code written for DOS but we do also have lots of antiquated hardware in more common use simply because any given researcher might not currently have grant funding. It sucks but this is the way of EDU even at a wealty private University. :-( Come to think of it, I’ve got a guy upstairs who very recently won a National Medal of Science and I think his Spectrometer on his Apple IIe is still running and used !!!

    Don’t want to sound like a zealot, but Linux is free.
    Are you volunteering to train everyone to use it and maintain security on it? The big issue with changing platforms is more often in training users and techs rather than the actual cost of the OS. Not to mention software compatibility issues. It’s a lot easier to switch your home computer than to switch an entire school district. As someone who is in IT, the thought makes me shudder. All those users, all those blank stares…

    Thanks for making this point for me. :-) This person is 100% correct. Linux has is free and powerful but, by it’s nature, there are a LOT of bugs in Linux. The community is good about patching but Linux requires quite a bit of management and someone who knows what they are doing to set it up properly in the first place. It’s much better than it has been in the past but you can’t simply dump Linux on a middle-school district without a strong IT group who really know what they are doing and not without a significant amount of end user training. Linux is great for what it is (a powerful and complicated OS). It is NOT a turnkey replacement for Windows or the MacOS however. I used to directly admin Linux servers years ago (and support Solaris and Windows and Novell and AIX and MacOS of every flavor) and I simply refuse to use Linux anymore. I get the itch every once in a while but I’m not 20 years old anymore and I’ve got better things to do with my time than to bang my head against Linux.

    I can’t stress enough that from everything I’ve heard the ONLY responsibilty here is with the School District and their IT people. It’s a sad reality but during the tech-boom the industry was filled up with people who were completely incompetent. It was all ‘earn while you learn’ and fly-by-night companies were hiring anyone with a warm body to do IT work.
    Someone is going to prison for the incompetence and neglegance of others. Start the civil suits flying.

    Steven

  70. #70 Joe
    February 4, 2007

    I am not comfortable contributing to Julie Amero’s defense via paypal, but through an email address from the NorwichBulletin posting and comments, NorwichBulletinStaff.emlcc@9ox.net, forwarded, I got an email from Wes Volle, Julie’s husband. He provided her mailing address, to which I am going to send a check. [address removed]

  71. #71 Ichthyic
    February 4, 2007

    funding for schools in the USA must be even worse than I thought

    it sure ain’t good.

    It’s one of the largest contributing factors to poor science instruction, in fact, considering that the best way to teach most science classes is hands-on.

    thus you have the extra costs of:

    multiple texts usually needed
    lab facilities
    liability insurance
    …and definetly qualified instructors…

    but again, that’s a different story than this one.

  72. #72 stinger
    February 4, 2007

    Can I assume that you all vote Yes on school bond issues?

  73. #73 Russell Blackford
    February 4, 2007

    I’d like to be able to say, smugly, “Only in America!”, but the obsession with anything that includes both (1) some kind of sexual element and (2) some kind of involvement of children, or young teenagers, has reached such proportions that this madness could probably happen in other countries as well.

    It’s madness all the same.

  74. #74 Graculus
    February 4, 2007

    I hope this isn’t the way you work.

    No. it’s not. There have been no infestations of any kind on my watch. I also try to make the enduser’s experience as easy as possible, if only so I don’t have to listen to them whine. Of course, the Yakuza appraoch to policy violations helps a great deal.

    The fault here, such as it is, lies entirely on the school board for not providing adequate IT service. This should have never gone anywhere near the legal system in the first place, but someone at the school board should have had a caltop shoved up their arse for letting things get that bad.

  75. #75 JohnnieCanuck
    February 5, 2007

    The IT Manager and his staff would actually be the ones responsible. Naturally they can point at the lack of a budget from the school board for getting newer hardware that could run a better OS. And the school board can point, etc. By what metrics could a board expect to evaluate the IT departments performance? Nothing technical, unless by great coincidence one was adequately competent herself.

    My speculation is that all the IT, School Admin and School board types were so busy snugging their diapers in place that they were happy to let the substitute take the blame. I somehow suspect that none of them were volunteering to accept their portion of the responsibility. None of which is a criminal liability.

    If what was reported here is correct, the police, prosecution and judicial sections are all incompetent. Someone should have done a sanity check. How likely was it that a female teacher would have been purposefully going to porn sites on a computer in a class of kids?

    The only likely malicious behaviour might have been one of the students trying to make the sub cry. There’s at least one kid like that in most classes.

    Can I place a bet that this went to the police because of one of those idiotic zero tolerance policies?

  76. #76 Bird Advocates
    February 5, 2007

    This is appalling! Let us hope sanity prevails on her appeal. I thought Samuel Sewell and Cotton Mather had died.

  77. #77 Ichthyic
    February 5, 2007

    By what metrics could a board expect to evaluate the IT departments performance?

    It would entirely depend on the goals set for the dept., but it isn’t had to get a competent IT manager to demonstrate how well the goals are being met.

    take the case in point; if any oversight had been done on the IT dept., like oh, i dunno, maybe a meeting every month even, the issue of keeping spyware and malware off of the school computer could have been readily evaluated.

    IT was lax in duty here, but oversight was apparently just as lax.

    plenty of blame to spread around, least of which should have fallen on the poor substitute teacher.

  78. #78 Steve LaBonne
    February 5, 2007

    It’s madness all the same.

    Why, it’s our modern, up-to-date version of witch-burning. Something that, in one form or another, never really goes out of style.

  79. #79 spencer
    February 5, 2007

    I actually know the prosecutor in this case – or, rather, I knew him a few years ago when he lived in Florida, before he went back to Connecticut. I am absolutely stunned that the guy I knew would behave in the way he evidently has in this case. I never would have imagined that he would succumb to the mentality that says it’s better to convict who you’ve got, than it is to actually find out the truth.

    Color me disillusioned and deeply disappointed.

  80. #80 i don't believe this
    February 5, 2007

    Wow. If I had been on that jury I probably would have punched out every person who voted guilty – because there just aren’t words for how wrong this is. Time to go donate some money I can’t afford to…

  81. #81 spencer
    February 5, 2007

    Can I assume that you all vote Yes on school bond issues?

    I do. So what’s your point?

  82. #82 stogoe
    February 5, 2007

    Yeah, it’s all too common that the lawyers exclude anyone from jury duty who might actually know what the prosecutors/defense attorneys are talking about. Can’t have anyone with expertise in the jury room, because then they might make an informed decision.

  83. #83 salomedesade
    February 5, 2007

    You know who else was arrested and ultimately put to death for corrupting children? Socrates. But corrupting 7th graders? They’re already corrupt. And sneaky, manipulative, selfish, and a total mass of hormones.

  84. #84 Will Von Wizzlepig
    February 5, 2007

    Ugh.

    Pathetic.

    That town- its court, legal system, and residents- ought to be ashamed.

    First of all, a public school network which is not locked down is a porn, spam and virus apocalypse waiting to happen. The school administration should have taken the hit for this.

    Second, if this is as sloppily run a network as it sounds, chances are everyone from the regular teacher to the janitor and night security guy may have been looking at porn and fuxored that PC previously.

    Third, whatever her problem was (because apparently she sat there the entire class period with porn on the screen?), how that constitutes corrupting morals I’d like to know.

    My country routinely embarrasses me, though, so, I guess this shouldn’t be so surprising.

  85. #85 ebohlman
    February 6, 2007

    I read that much of her defense was disallowed by the judge. Does anyone know more about that?

    Her defense attorney made a procedural mistake by not informing the prosecution, prior to trial, that he was going to offer evidence (that the computer was full of spyware) from his own expert. Therefore, the prosecution objected to the introduction of the evidence and the judge agreed.

    Americans are, in general, rather horrified by the fact that humans reach puberty before the age of legal adulthood, and don’t act in a pre-pubescent manner during that time. The original rationale that exposure to porn was harmful to kids was that it would lead boys (girls are purely angelic rather than carnal so there’s no concern there, you know) to engage in “self-pollution” and thereby waste Precious Bodily Fluids (that term didn’t originate with Dr. Strangelove; there was actually a whole doctrine known as “spermatic economy” that held that retained semen was valuable to the body).

    Nowadays, the rationale is that any sexual activity, sexually oriented image, or sexually oriented talk is inherently “traumatic” to anyone below the age of 18; it’s a staple belief among psychotherapists (but not research psychologists: look up “Rind Study”) and members of the recovery movement (much of the “logic” involves noting that we use the word “abuse” to describe underage sexual activity and we also use it to describe chronic overconsumption of alcohol or other psychoactive drugs, and then automatically transferring assumptions/dogma about alcoholism to underage sexual activity; this is the same “logic” that says that an organist is someone who believes in organism, or that real poo cleans your hair better than shampoo; it’s based purely on an accident of language). I really, really, hope that none of the parents involved jumped to the conclusion that their kids needed therapy merely because the incident happened, since the kind of therapy offered in such cases usually emphasizes the “victim’s” vulnerability and fragility (again based on recovery-movement dogma: “we admitted we were powerless…”) and can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies (convince a kid that he/she’s severely screwed up, and he/she will act severely screwed up) and pathologization of normal adolescent behavior.

  86. #86 Keith Douglas
    February 7, 2007

    Appalling.

    This does illustrate my idea that computing in schools is missing crucial components. My high school computing teacher, Mr. Murray, always stressed the socioeconomic aspects of computing. Now, more than ever, this sort of thing, plus his emphasis on “compute responsibly” has to be done to prevent miscarriages of justice like this.

    I’ve writen up some draft course ideas that deal with this, but I am not qualified at the high school level (never mind elementary schools, where some should begin) so I’m a bit stulified …

  87. #87 Steve LaBonne
    February 7, 2007

    That town- its court, legal system, and residents- ought to be ashamed.

    No, it ought to be razed, and the ground on which it stood sown with salt.

  88. #88 Maura Keaney
    February 7, 2007

    I write for My Left Nutmeg, a progressive group blog in CT, and have spoken to Julie and Wes by phone. They confirm that the PayPal link is legit.

    I’ll be writing an update about this at MLN shortly, but there is no question that this is an outrageous, insane miscarriage of justice.

  89. #89 Luke Barnes
    February 14, 2007

    If this is the county’s worst crime then I am moving there ASAP. Sounds like the prosecuter is bored to death and nothing else to do. Sad for this couple though as they are getting railroaded. GUILTY OF NOT PULLING THE POWER PLUG basically. lol, what a joke.

  90. #90 Mike Conwelll
    February 15, 2007

    Craig and all,

    I’ll also vouch for the donation link found at (http:// julieamer. blogspot. com (remove the spaces to use in your browser).

    I was already in conversation with her attorney, Mr Cocheo, and he forwarded me the link as soon as it became available. I’m in for $50 now, and more on tomorrow’s paycheck.

    Mike Conwell http:// www. state-v-amero. com
    Computer Consulting Co
    2720 Bee Caves Rd
    Austin, TX 78746

  91. #91 Ian
    February 24, 2007

    I’d just like to correct one notion expressed here; namely that running Windows 98 is folly. In fact, any IT guy with an ounce of real-world experience knows that the NT product line (including XP) is MUCH MORE vulnerable to malware then the 95-based versions.

    Anyway, that aside, the key issue here is not the version of Windows they were using, but that INTERNET EXPLORER was being used. This fact is pivotal to the case, since there would have been no case to answer if the school’s IT dept had provided a more-secure browser.

    Let’s face it, Microsoft themselves have publicly admitted that most versions of Internet Explorer _cannot_ be made secure against malware. The school should not have been providing this faulty software for use in the classroom. In this respect they are criminally negligent, and should take the full blame for Julie Amero’s suffering.

    It’s not as if the solution is expensive, either. Most alternative browsers for Windows are free.

  92. #92 Jim Lippard
    June 7, 2007

    Good news: Julie Amero has been granted a retrial!

  93. #93 Fima Fimovich
    January 17, 2008

    My name is Fima Estrin and I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
    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.
    Now I do not have job and can hardly survive under police database
    supervision, named s..x offender registration. Nobody want to hire me,
    I think because of police database.
    And I have family. Who cares? Dirty polititians are playing their
    dirty games for more power.
    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.
    You can find all links to publications about my case here

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

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