Judge grants Amero new trial in school-porn case

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Judge grants Amero new trial in school-porn case

Julie Amero, the Connecticut former substitute teacher convicted of allowing students to view pornography on a classroom PC, was granted a new trial today.

Amero was convicted in January of four counts of risk of injury to a minor, facing up to 40 years in prison before the case was thrown out.

Amero has argued that the pornographic images repeatedly popped up and couldn’t be turned off, the result of badware installed on a class PC that was running the Windows 98 operating system and expired anti-spyware solutions at the time of the 2004 incident.

The classroom computer was examined by state investigators after the trail, according to the Associated Press.

"The jury may have relied, at least in part, on that faulty information," Judge Hillary B. Stackbein said today, according to the AP.

A new trial date has not been set.

Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software and an adviser to the Amero defense team, told SCMagazine.com that should the state prosecute again, "it’s a whole different ball game now."

"I don’t think anyone on the defense team is dancing in the streets, because there is still the specter of a new trial. Everyone should be extremely pleased that the motion for a new trial was accepted, but we’re still cautious about the ultimate outcome," he said.

"What we did was assemble a team of forensic experts, and we wrote a document that detailed what we believe were the inconsistencies between the physical evidence and what was said at the trial. We gave that to the defense and they used that as part of their effort."

The advisory team also included consultant Glenn S. Dardick, Sunbelt Vice President of Research and Development Eric Sites, MessageLabs researcher Alex Shipp, SecureWorks researcher Joe Stewart and experts Joel Folkerts and Robin Stewart.

Researchers said today that Amero may have been a victim of public misunderstanding of badware and the effect it can have on a PC.

Ron O’Brien, senior security analyst at Sophos, told SCMagazine.com that prosecutors did not look for the true culprits.

"The preponderance of evidence in the case would suggest that there was a lack of adequate security on the machine. So while she may not be responsible for what appeared on the machine, [prosecutors] seem to be willing to concede that other parties may have had a role because there was no firewall and there was no anti-virus service in place," he said.

"Common sense is really the underlying sentiment here. I think she was certainly held as an example of what is not acceptable in a classroom, but we have to look for the parties actually responsible for the incident."

Joe Telafici, virus researcher at McAfee Avert Labs, told SCMagazine.com that the case could be a wake-up call to the public that PCs can be used to harm other people.

"[Malware bringing up pornographic images] is not unlikely, this stuff happens pretty commonly. There’s a lot of malware that can make this happen," he said. "School environments in particular seem to be pretty insecure."

Ryan Russell, quality assurance manager at BigFix, told SCMagazine.com that he has "been in a fantastic mood all day."

"If it does go to trail again, one thing she does have in her corner is that they know the world is watching, and there won’t be another case of the trial being pushed through the court in the minimum amount of time," he said.

Russell also credited Eckelberry with organizing other security professionals to aid Amero.
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