Teacher Gets Retrial in School Pop-Up Porn Case

A former substitute teacher for a Connecticut middle school has been granted a retrial following a conviction that launched a wave of sympathy and outrage.

Julie Amero could have been sentenced to 40 years in prison after being found guilty of exposing her students to Internet pornography. However, the defense countered that the porn was on the school PC due to ads that popped up on benign Web sites.

This, in fact, is a credible argument, said Rich Sutton, director of labs at8e6 Technologies. “The computer on which the illicit Web content was displayed had antispyware software installed on it — but it was unpatched,” he told TechNewsWorld. “That is a recipe for disaster. When you are missing security software, you are leaving yourself wide open to the latest in spam and spyware.”

New Findings

After the trial, the computer was sent to a state laboratory, where technicians found evidence that may contradict what a state computer expert told the jury.

Judge Hillary Strackbein ordered a new trial based on the possibility that the testimony might have been erroneous. Also, the prosecution, which has not opposed a new trial, admitted it had not scanned the device for spyware. Furthermore, the defendant’s own expert was barred from testifying.

Amero asked fellow teachers how to block the pop-up ads, according to some accounts. She reportedly was told to ignore them and also was instructed never to turn off the computer.

Chief Concern

It is easy to understand why Amero was so quickly vilified; indeed, her new trial may lead to another conviction. Protecting students and children from sexual predators as well as exposure to porn on the Internet has become a chief concern among legislators and child advocates. Schools are restricted in terms of what they can allow students to do online; to have a teacher expose them to the dark side of the Internet would constitute a slap in the face against those efforts.

In this case, though, technology is a double-edged sword. While its use exposed children to content they might not otherwise have accessed, Sutton said, it could also have proven Amero did not cause that exposure — if the antispyware had been kept up to date.

“If it had been installed at the gateway, it could have provided a time stamp of what she did,” he pointed out.

If, for instance, the logs showed she surfaced to a benign site and then the browser navigated rapidly to porn images, that would most likely be the trail of a pop-up ad.

“It is impossible for someone to manually navigate as fast as a pop-up ad can,” said Sutton.

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

E-commerce Times Channels