The Neverending Story of Julie Amero

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Normally I try to let sleeping dogs lie. But this is one hound who keeps barking and won't shut up.

I am speaking in this instance about one of the central figures in the Julie Amero case, Norwich Police Detective Mark Lounsbury.

In case you're not up to speed on the Amero case, Lounsbury is the "computer forensics expert" who was used by the prosecution to help convict her. In January 2007 Amero was found guilty of endangering minors by a Connecticut jury for exposing 7th graders to porn sites on a classroom computer. In June 2007 the conviction was vacated and a new trial ordered by a judge after computer security experts intervened, saying this was clearly a case of a malware infestation spewing porn pop ups. Amero finally pled guilty to a lesser charge last November just to get the case over with.

End of story, right? Not exactly. Because now a new blog has appeared titled julie amero, alex eckelberry, rick green, et all [sic]. The author of said blog? Yes, that's right, Det. Mark Lounsbury.

Not that Lounsbury actually puts his name anywhere on the site. The author of this one-pager calls himself "no-opinions-just-facts." He also posts a photograph of himself in a police uniform holding what looks like an M-16 assault rifle.

And he clearly wanted those of us in Cringeville to see it, because earlier today "Mark" posted a comment linking to his blog to one of last month's posts about Amero.

It's a quasi-coherent rant at best, but as far as I can gather Lounsbury is convinced Julie Amero was actively seeking out porn primarily because a link on one of the pages displayed on her computer changed color.

Per the technical report [PDF] produced by that team of computer security wonks:

"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.... It’s worth noting that, to our knowledge, ComputerCop is not a program that is widely used in expert forensic circles, despite intimations otherwise on the company’s website."

What seems more likely to you? That a woman who's seven months pregnant and technologically illiterate would be actively surfing lesbian sites in full view of a class of seventh graders? Or that a computer left wholly unprotected on the Net got infested with malware and began producing illicit pop-ups?

Who seems more qualified to make that call? A team of seven highly experienced computer security experts? Or some lone cop with an obscure software program who emails messages filled with strange apocalyptic rhetoric to the experts and journalists following the case?

In Lounsbury's world, he's sane and the rest of us are loonie tunes.

But don't take my word for it. Check out Mark's blog and decide for yourself.

And whatever you do, if you're ever passing through Norwich, Connecticut, try not to get arrested.

So who's the sane one? Cast your vote below or email me direct: cringe (at) infoworld (dot) com.

This story, "The Neverending Story of Julie Amero" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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