Julie Amero, a 40-year-old substitute teacher from Connecticut is facing up to 40 years in prison for exposing her seventh grade class to a cascade of pornographic imagery. Amero maintains that she is a victim of a malicious software infestation that caused her computer to spawn porn uncontrollably.
On the morning of Oct. 19, 2004, Julie Amero’s life changed forever when pornographic ads flooded her web browser during a class. According to the prosecuting attorney, David Smith, Amero’s computer began displaying images of naked men and women, couples performing sexual acts, and “bodily fluids.”
On Jan. 5, 2007, a Norwich jury found Amero guilty of four felony counts of “injury or risk of injury to, or impairing morals of, children.” Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and while it is unlikely that Amero will receive the maximum penalty, incarceration remains a very real possibility. Even if Amero avoids jail, she will be stripped of her teaching credentials unless the convictions are reversed.
Perceptive readers would have noticed that Amero was a substitute teacher, not the regular user of the computer. This would mean that she would have been unaware of the contents of the machine or the surfing habits of the regular user(s). While I understand that blog trollers like myself (and you) are at least a little more technically savvy than perhaps the average non-netizen, I would think that at least one or two cops in the precinct might have clued into the risks of adware and malware. I mean, don’t these people have kids?
“I’m confident”, I can hear you say, “That the police are smart enough to look for that. Aren’t they?” You’re naivete is kind of cute.
No, not in this case.
Detective Mark Lounsbury, a computer crimes officer at the Norwich Police Department testified as an expert witness for the prosecution. He maintained that Amero was intentionally surfing for pornography while her seventh grade class busied itself with language arts.
Lounsbury told the court that Amero musts have “physically clicked” on pornographic links during class time in order to unleash the pornographic pictures. However, he admitted under cross-examination that the prosecution never even checked the computer for malware.
Why didn’t the police check for malicious software? According to prosecutor David Smith, the police didn’t check for malware because the defense didn’t raise the possibility of a malware attack during the pretrial phase, as required by law.
In other words, we only investigate so far as we are told we have to by the law.
Perhaps, when this one is redressed on appeal, the officers that did not properly investigate the case, or their bosses that did not offer proper training for handling the simplest of computer cases could be charged with malicious prosecution, dereliction of duty, or stupidity on the job.