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'Spyware' teacher found guilty of exposing kids to smut

Perverse verdict

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A teacher whose classroom PC displayed pornographic images to school children faces up to 40 years imprisonment.

The pop-up images of couples fornicating will the likely result of spyware infestation, according to defence witnesses testifying on behalf of teacher Julie Amero, 40, Windham, Connecticut. But the six-person jury rejected this argument and convicted the substitute language teacher on Friday of four counts of risk of injury to a minor after just two hours of deliberation, according to local reports.

The trial stemmed from an October 2004 incident when Amero was teaching a seventh-grade language class at Kelly Middle School. Graphic images from sites including meetlovers.com and femalesexual.com were displayed on her computer in front of the ten young children in her class.

The prosecution alleged that this cycle of graphic images was the result of Amero actively visiting pornographic sites. State Prosecutor David Smith questioned why she didn't simply pull the plug on the PC.

The defence unsuccessfully argued that computer spyware was to blame. Amero claimed she could not control the graphic images that began circulating on the PC. "The pop-ups never went away. They were continuous," she testified.

Defense computer expert W. Herbert Horner said that he found spyware on the PC, linked to a seemingly innocent hair styling website, "that led to this pornographic loop that was out of control".

It's easy to understood how someone, like Amero, not knowledgeable about computers, might panic in such circumstances. The license for the school's content filtering software, which (if working) would have blocked the images, had expired.

But after listening to the students testifying and a police security expert, the jury rejected these arguments and convicted Amero.

Norwich Police Detective Mark Lounsbury, a computer crimes investigator, testified that the offending sites were accessed on Amero's watch and that users interaction was involved.

State Prosecutor Smith said: "You have to physically click on it to get to those sites. I think the evidence is overwhelming that she did intend to access those websites."

Based on reports that the jury had begun discussing the trial during a bar-room lunch, Amero's lawyers applied for a mistrial. The jurors denied these allegations and were allowed to consider their verdict.

Defence lawyer John Cocheo said he intends to appeal the guilty verdict. Sentencing in the case is due to take place on 2 March, the Norwich Bulletin reports. ®

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