back to article Substitute teacher's conviction for porn popups set aside

Julie Amero, the substitute teacher convicted of four felony counts when a computer in her classroom subjected seventh-graders to pornographic images, has been granted a new trial in light of fresh forensic information that came to light following her first trial. Amero faced up to 40 years in prison for the offense, which …

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Anonymous Coward

Finally sanity rains

About time.

I wish her all the best for the future.

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Re: Finally sanity rains

Sadly she probably hasn't got much of a future - after an episode like this I bet no school will employ her again.

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Only In America

Only here can that happen (America), *sigh*, Our justice system kinda sucks that way.

--But at least our "unlimited" bandwidth is unlimited.

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Re: Finally sanity rains

You mean like in droplets, from the sky? Or reigns, like a ruler or a king?

Actually I rather like the idea that sanity rains. Then I know when to put up my brolly or stay indoors :-)

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The New Dark Age

I hope that her future is not destroyed by this unfortunate witch hunt, which harks back to the days of Ducking Stools and mob justice.

I am ashamed to see how sophisticated technology is freely handed over to people with little or no training, only to have them carry the blame when that technology fails.

Just because every 10 year old boy knows what a steering wheel and pedals are for in a car, does that qualify him to drive on our roads? Of course not. So why do we give even more power to the average untrained professional as though it might magically find a way to improve things?

Revolution will come : either it will be in the shape of an interface that is intuitive for use by a human being, or it will be in the form of licences that entitle the holder to operate a computer after sufficient training.

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Anonymous Coward

Why dosent she sue the school district

I think she should sue the school district for not having adequate blocking on their internet connection. She should argue they did not protect her from the popups happening in the first place.

The tools are available.

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amicus briefs

I know 10 people who filed amicus briefs in this case. Most of the security community was behind her on this one. Of course a prosecution witness is going to provide information that only serves the prosecution. However, he really wasn't qualified to do the job and missed several pieces of exculpatory information.

Disclaimer: I'm a professional witness.

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Silver badge

So who *is* guilty?

There seems to be no argument about the crime, ie. "four counts of risk or injury to a minor". Well then, if Amero isn't responsible, then who is? Shouldn't they be taking this further in order to preserve their credibility? Perhaps the providers of the software, the person who chose the software, or the authors of the OS in question perhaps. I honestly don't know. If there really was such a serious crime, then why aren't they trying to find out where the blame lies? Normally, you'd want to avoid "serious" crimes in the future.

Personally, I don't think it's a big deal, but the prosecuters seemed to think it was. Now that they are found to have the wrong culprit, it is suddenly not important anymore? This is crazy.

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The tools are available.

"The tools are available."

Actually I originally suspected the tools were in charge - but at least this nightmare has "sort of" ended for her.

Now all she has to do is spend the rest of her life suffering from ignorant cries of "no smoke without fire"!

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even if she was guilty...

... forty years in jail for a couple of pornographic images? The mind boggles.

"I am ashamed to see how sophisticated technology is freely handed over to people with little or no training, only to have them carry the blame when that technology fails."

You mean that the _end user_ should be responsible for all the malware crap out there? And for fixing MS Windows's security faults that the malware takes advantage of?

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RE: even if she was guilty...

I think the point being made was exactly the opposite, how the hell can an 'innocent' _end user_ BE held responsible for all that.

It seems that the 'PC' set needed their witch-hunt, and the nearest victim would do.

On that logic, I'd hate to be an eye witness to a crime....seems there is a high risk of assumed guilt by association.

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Fit for purpose

I think the term fir for purpose applies.

The machine should have been fit for purpose :

ie anti virus, malware pritection, popup blocking & patched OS

The network should be fit for purpose :

ie proxied with content filtering

The user however should also be fit for purpose :

ie able to use the equipment provided

This can be viewed as a failure on all these levels, anyway anybody with a brain would have turned off the monitor instead of trying to close the popups.

Unfortunitely part of my duties involves me to deal with users, and it is more than safe to say the majority of users are not "Fit for purpose"

Teachers & legal types are amongst the worst, for refusing or ignoring any advice or training. Usually involving being shouted down with statements like "I did a degree in race course management, so don't tell me what I'm supposed to do"

Rob...

Oh yeah the web monkeys, many so called software devleopers (the point and click ones) & people who have learnt java as part of their Masters are the worst of all

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Anonymous Coward

re: even if she was guilty...

"You mean that the _end user_ should be responsible for all the malware crap out there? And for fixing MS Windows's security faults that the malware takes advantage of?"

If feel it is fairly obvious the guy was implying that it is a basic duty of technology vendors and those that setup said technology to provide a safe environment (for example not Windows 98) for end users to work in, as well as make sure end users are adequately trained to use that technology safely and securely.

Now it may well be the case that the supplier did offer such things, but the school administrators decided they would go cheap and not bother - in which case they themselves bare the responsibility for everything that happened.

What is clear is that the only totally innocent person here is the user - whose career has been destroyed by false accusation, and I believe that was the point behind this guy's post.

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past sell by date

I don't get why there isn't mandated minimum software levels for publically used computers, especially in schools.

wouldn't be that hard to draw up a list of minimum required software for example

or why there isn't the equivalent of an MOT for publically accessed machines.

If you were to cause an accident in a car you hired through no fault of your own, other than the hired car was defective, but the person hiring was unaware, then it would be the hire companies liability.

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Silver badge

Hmm...

Cloudberry:

> ... forty years in jail for a couple of pornographic images? The mind boggles.

Yep, even the UK Government only wants to lock adults up for three years for possessing images which are entirely legal at the moment (and which will still be legal over most of the rest of the world even if they do get their way)!

See http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk/proposed.html (ignore points ii and iii on the list of what the legislation proposes, they're just there to distract people from noticing that the first point will result in people risking being locked up based on entirely subjective opinions of whether an image "appears to be life-threatening" or not)

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oh right

I read the paragraph I quoted too quickly. Sorry.

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Sadly , no true justice for the innocent here!

Sadly , for true justice to be served in this case , 4 people should be sentenced and jailed for forty years for wasting the courts time!

1/ The prime police investigator who is obviously incompetent , so the question is how many other innocent people has he sent to the big house due to his biased and incompetent investigations with edited or planted evidence!

2/ The prosecutor , for deliberately wasting taxpayers money on a frivolous and vexatious case and employing unprofessional witnesses , so this gives rise to the question how many innocent people has he too sent to the big house based on the perjured testimony of somewhat incompetent professional witnesses has employed to do his bidding in the past or on falsified police evidence?

3/ The School Administrator, who is obviously inept and incompetent for reporting and involving the police in a frivolous and irrelevant case in the first place!

4/ The so called state employed expert witness for plain and simple perjury at the highest level!

Justice in Amerika can be bought at a very high price indeed by the innocent

And of course the mass media will never ever publicly apologize at the same outrageous level of pre and trial hysteria , for the very deliberate innuendo , slander and libel of the innocent victim in this case , based fictional misinformation supplied by the above four incompetents at various interviews and off the record statements!

Now that would be true justice in every sense of the word , for those within the justice system that railroad the innocent , should get the same hard time as their victim!

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Silver badge

Malware & porn

Turning off the *monitor* ... it isn't always a monitor, y'know.

We got our own kicks when some joker changed the default homepage to a pr0n site in a school computer.

Tragically, this was one of the "Aula Magna" classrooms. Think something like a small auditorium, 120 student capacity. A projector shows the computer's display in a 70" area (or something like that).

So imagine the face of our teacher when she opens IE and BOOM. She went on to press alt-f4 en masse... hilarious moment.

Oh ... and this was sometime around 1999.

And for the PC using Win98 ... well, I've seen lots of places *still* running win9x because the machines can't even run win2000.

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Goldmine

She's going to make a packet off the book rights and the talk show circuit!

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Anonymous Coward

This is exactly the problem

"We got our own kicks when some joker changed the default homepage to a pr0n site in a school computer."

School Admins (Computor or other I dont know) are even to lazy or dumb to do the most basic thisgs like lock all users without Admin access from changing the homepage...

That and the police were to lazy to do basic checks to see who viseted what site when. If they did not have basic user profiles to see who did cause the Malware then the school should be in deep trouble. Makes you wonder what the pupils are accessing from the school network.

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Dan

Re: Goldmine

"She's going to make a packet off the book rights and the talk show circuit!"

And so she should, in addition to suing the four culprits cited in heystoopid's comment... after all, she will likely still find it very difficult to work as a teacher

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Malware my ass

Those kids knew exactly what they were after

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Rob

Minimum levels

"I don't get why there isn't mandated minimum software levels for publically used computers, especially in schools."

It's a very easy answer: cost.

You can draw up minimum levels that are required to be safe but unless the school/local authority/government etc can afford those costs, then it aint gonna happen.

You honestly think Microsoft is going to give in to cries of "But we need the latest stuff to protect the children!" and make their more secure OSes cheaper? If you can't afford it - you can't have it. I don't know of many schools that can just afford to splash out on the latest thing on a whim.

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Stu

The likely REAL culprits here

I'd bet that there are some smug little buggers out there somewhere laughing at how all the adults around them blew their little porn prank out of all proportion and into the screwed up legal system of the US - they must be laffing at how all the adults around them screwed things up for their victim teacher - and still are.

It most likely means they'll all grow up into screwed up adults if thats the example they have.

I read a posting on a prank forum where some kids set up a classroom TV to play porn from a DVD player (with their own burned DVD-R of porn), then set it up so it was in a closed and locked TV cabinet. They of course sealed the lock hole and disguised the 'real' power cables with fakes so the teachers couldn't unlock the cabinet or turn off the power. They triggered it with one of those watches that has a TV remote control in it.

Apparently it played for about 5 mins - the teacher didn't notice cos the volume was low, so they turned it up to full blast! The kids were then pulled out of the room whilst the adults struggled to find out how to switch it off.

Kids nowadays eh!! Wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Julie Amero was the target of such a prank.

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Court Rules??

"Court rules prevented Amero's defense team from presenting testimony that could have shown the computer was infected with malware that forced the computer to display pop-ups."

Comes up time and time again - courts rule that certain crucial evidence is inadmissible. For example CCTV evidence in the famour Stephen Lawrence murder case. I never really understood why this happens.

So what Court Rules were they?

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and they wonder why

..... most the the planet thinks the tin-tanks are 'kin nutts!

surely M$ made it possible fo rthis teacher to display pr0n on a computer, so shouldnt Bill be heading for jail for 40 years? Or the owners of the jpeg file type? Or the ISP? Or the governors of the school who employed her?

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Someone remind me

Did Windows 98 have sticky keys?

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"Sue the School"

Bad idea this. Unless its a private school, the schools generally don't have money. It is sad but true.

If you sue the district, either you'll loose even more teachers or learning programs. The school isn't going to really pull more money from the government due to a lawsuit, instead it would try to pull more tax money from the district.

Now a suit to get your job back might be worthwhile if you could put up with the harassment from the area.

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Anonymous Coward

About time...

Sue the prosecution lady... sue! Miscarriage of justice to this degree is ridiculous!

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RE: Minimum levels

"It's a very easy answer: cost."

Don't be an idiot. Not everything must be microsoft mandated miniumum. Edubuntu does a great job and its free, and doesn't need massive hardware to work.

Schools do need a minimum of software security, this should include a recent fully patched OS on all machines, MS sell licenses to schools for 10$ a pop, WindowsXP will run on computers built for under £200 now, there are some pretty damn easy things to do to stop this kind of injustice from happening very cheaply, but it seems that "cost" comes into it as a get out clause for the upheaval of updating.

When MS pull the plug on updates to an OS, then you have two coices, upgrade to the latest MS OS and the hardware requirements too, or you change your OS to a free Linux/BSD/Solaris based system.

If the Education department of the United Fundamentalist Nutters of America (My new name for a Bush ran US) want to really enhance their computing infrastructure then why don't they approach Sun microsystems which can easily put together something ideally targetted for them. Instead of believing that God will protect them...

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On the flip side...

Article says: "Prosecutors argued Amero had actively caused the computer to display the images and argued her actions resulted in felony risk or injury to a minor. Court rules prevented Amero's defense team from presenting testimony that could have shown the computer was infected with malware that forced the computer to display pop-ups."

So... speaking of malware... Hackers don't typically jump on your system to install it. It doesn't just magically appear one day. I think you've really gotta get out there and search for some choice cuts of garbage in order to pick up the porn-displaying breed.

I'm wondering if the prosecution was saying that the teacher was guilty of the charges because she used the machine 'improperly' (ie: "displaying images" to herself), which allowed it to pick up this junk and subsequently display it to the class...

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Havnt they heard of firefox?

Bet they were using IE... What do they expect.

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speaking of crimes

She also had a miscarriage of her pregnancy from the stress of this case.

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Anonymous Coward

Malware

"So... speaking of malware... Hackers don't typically jump on your system to install it. It doesn't just magically appear one day. I think you've really gotta get out there and search for some choice cuts of garbage in order to pick up the porn-displaying breed."

Actualy with the fact its 98 the version of IE she would of been using would be very susceptable to this type of thing. Checking webmail, visitng a site by typing in the wrong url and being taken to another, relatively innocent, looking one. Going onto a site which had a pop up with the code in it. Until recently, with the release of firefox and IE7, it was all to easy for this type of thing to happen with the user having no idea.

Then you have the possibility that she wasn't the oly one who used hte machine, which wouldn't surprise me in the case of the school. Simple fact is her system had no chance of being secure.

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Anonymous Coward

Cost prohibitive?

Then I have a suggestion - LINUX!

Dump the inherently insecure POS that is known as M$ and run RedHat or SuSE. A good second alternative would be a Mac running OS X.

M$ is a virus that needs to be eradicated befor PC computing can be pleasurable again.

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One person to blame?

Why must there always be some"one" to blame? Why can't people just accept that a number of different factors led to the porn images being shown, the main people to blame being all the people who malicously attack Windows to install the spyware that brought the pop ups?

If you buy a car, and someone pries the bonnet open and tinkers with the engine so that it blows up, then you don't blame the car manufacturer for making the product insecure, you blame the bastard who went out his to way to break into the car and do the damage.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, blame the manufacturer

"If you buy a car, and someone pries the bonnet open and tinkers with the engine so that it blows up, then you don't blame the car manufacturer for making the product insecure, you blame the bastard who went out his to way to break into the car and do the damage."

In this case, the manufacturer built the car with 1) no locks on the car to prevent unauthorized access, 2) an engine that blows up without being tinkered with in the first place, and 3) an ability to display pornography on the windshield, with a new picture showing up every time the wiper blades go past.

Sure, the bad guys are to blame when they break into your house, but if the builder failed to include locks on all the doors, that would show both incompetence and negligence. The OS in question was always insecure and unstable. Don't try to make MS look like a victim here. They made billions from a lousy product, and they never took security seriously until it became clear that the business world would no longer tolerate the lack of it.

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The real issue is the worryingly prudish/extreme views on sex in the USA

A country which pumps out an entertainment industry on a huge scale, with a large p0rn market in home DVD and cinema, and the extreme sexualisation of women in music videos, etc etc, and then the flipside, a victorian prudishness!

Amusingly, Dove recently ran a global campaign which had naked women in the advertising - but supposedly to show that they were still beautiful, not sexualised or erotic at all. The only country to ban the ads? The USA. Because clearly you can't have nudity without it being about sex! It's a miracle they manage to shower at all.

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Silver badge

Deja Vu

One other point coming out of all of this is that the US justice system and especially its incumbents are still inherently the same as those portrayed in "Inherit the Wind".

I guess that after years or right-wing fundamentalist zealotry holding sway over there, Ms Amero can count herself lucky she wasn't offered a free holiday in the Caribbean.

Guantanamo, to be precise.

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