Take Action: Julie Amero Porn Case

If you're not familiar with Julie Amero's legal problems, you can catch up by reading "Teacher Faces Prison for Pop-Up Infested PC."

This week I have more for you on the case.

I've been privy to conversations with a dozen high-level security experts, forensic examiners, and a top-notch attorney.

Unfortunately, there's lots I can't repeat. What I can say is the consensus is that Amero is getting a bad rap. For a sample of what intelligent, tech-savvy folks are saying, I've got two excellent articles for you. The first is Randy Abrams's "Can a Legal System Unversed in Technology Result in a Fair Trial?" Next is Mark Rasch's "Mouse-Trapped."

After my Amero column posted, many of you asked how you could help. You've got plenty of options, but first I thought I'd share some interesting e-mails I've gotten.

A Juror Speaks Out

One of the jurors in the case sent me an e-mail explaining why he thinks Amero is guilty. The juror said he subscribed to my newsletter, then proceeded to talk about his rationale. He asked me not to reveal his name, but I've verified that he was on the jury that convicted Amero.

Here's what he wrote in his e-mail to me. I've lightly edited it to remove a few typos and make it a little easier to read. (I've inserted my comments in brackets):

<blockquote>I was on the jury and yes we did find her guilty.</blockquote>

<blockquote>But everything seems to be misquoted by the papers and reporters involved. The bottom line was that it didn't make a difference how the porn sites showed up on the computer.</blockquote>

According to the trial transcript, Amero testified that she made every attempt to keep the children from seeing the images. In fact, a number of children testified that she had attempted to block them from seeing the screen. Also, another substitute teacher testified that Julie had asked for help in the teachers lounge.

<blockquote>The fact that a teacher in a public school system did absolutely nothing to keep it away from the children is what was wrong. Yes, we were told that she was given no permissions to turn off the computer. She also said she was not allowed to use any other school equipment.</blockquote>

<blockquote>If a 40-year-old school teacher does not have the sense to turn off or is not smart enough to figure it out, would you or any other person wanting her teaching your child or grandchild?</blockquote>

At the trial Amero testified that she didn't, in fact, know how to turn a computer on or off.

<blockquote>If you and your wife were watching an xxx rated movie that you put into the dvd player, you powered it up and you hit play, then went into the other room for a snack and your child or grandchild entered the room would you expect your wife to stop the dvd or just let it play because she didn't start it. No you would be upset as all get out.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Even giving Julie the benefit of doubt, not knowing enough about a computer to be able to turn it off. Some paper and tape would have covered the screen or a coat or sweater. It was October after all.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Finally she was pronounced guilty because she made no effort to hide or stop the porno, not just because she loaded the porno onto the machine. Going to the history pages it was obvious that the pages were clicked on they were not the result of pop-ups.</blockquote>

Actually, the defense expert at the trial testified that the sites visited were from pop-ups.

<blockquote>Each web page visited showed where links were clicked on and followed to other pages. Pop ups go to sites without change lnk colors, as in used links.</blockquote>

That's incorrect. Pop-ups show as a changed type color, just like a normal site visit.

Personal note to the juror: I made a mistake using your partial e-mail address in my blog, even though you said it was okay to do so. I should have advised you not to do it--or ignored your permission--and just used "anonymous." As a result, many people found out who you are and you've received "over 250 e-mails most of them telling [you] how bad, stupid, or evil" you are. I don't think you are any of these. (I don't agree with your decision as a juror. Despite that, or perhaps in spite of it, I have to respect the judicial system.)

Either way, I owe you a tremendous apology for exposing you to the uncivil and contemptuous e-mail you received. --Steve

Norwich Detective Weighs In

As if that weren't enough, I also heard from Detective Mark Lounsbury, the crime prevention officer with the Norwich Police Department. Here's his e-mail, exactly as I received it.

<blockquote>Dear Mr. Bass, Unfortunately the truth in this matter is yet to be told to all those who were not located in the courtroom during the trial. Those in the courtroom saw and heard the truth. Once sentencing is done the truth CAN BE presented to the world IF they want it. I'm thinking the world doesn't want to hear the truth. IGNORANCE IS BLISS. The lies are exciting, bringing up STRONG emotions. OMG, that poor person, victimized by the Evil Government and its minions.</blockquote>

<blockquote>It continues to amaze me how people can base their opinion on what is fed to them. Did anyone ask the Expert for the evidence he recovered which would support his claims? The "curlyhairstye script", those pornographic googlesyndication.com generated pop ups? BUNK also known as errors of commission. Would you like to know the truth? Once sentencing is over I'd be more than happy to let you see the source code, scripts, etc.</blockquote>

<blockquote>I've received allot of calls and emails regarding this. All from people interested only in TELLING me their opinions or TELLING me they're going to get me. Not once has anyone called or written me to ASK me a question. They apparently have what they want. I work hard every day for the victims of crime. I search for the truth not for me but for them. If what the newspaper reported about my testimony was my actual testimony, taken in context, don't you think there would have been some consequences, a rebuttal, something.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Feel free to write if you wish.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Mark Lounsbury</blockquote>

I had tons of questions and fired them back in an e-mail. Unfortunately, this was his response:

<blockquote>Dear Mr. Bass, Once the sentencing phase for this case is done I can answer all your questions. I have all the information you seek. My opinion is not important but I am fleshing out a theory concerning site blocking software which was in place and how to circumvent it. I can provide you w/ the source code showing all the .htm and javascripting for each web page, images from those pages, date/time of creation, MD5 hashes, etc. I will contact you after sentencing. Thank you,</blockquote>

<blockquote>Mark Lounsbury</blockquote>

How You Can Help

You can check the Julie Amero blog and consider helping by way of the Julie Amero Defense Fund, which is linked to the site.

You can also use the power of e-mail. The State's Attorney responsible for supervision of David Smith, the prosecutor in the Amero case, is Michael L. Regan (at michael.l.regan@po.state.ct.us). You might want to write to him and strongly urge that he help Smith file a motion to vacate the conviction. An e-mail to the Chief State's Attorneys of Connecticut Kevin T. Kane (at conndcj@po.state.ct.us) and Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell (at Governor.Rell@po.state.ct.us) can't hurt, either.

If you write, try not to go on a rant. I know it's tempting, but if you use your computing expertise--and a civil argument--you'll likely get better results.

Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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