aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, January 26, 2007
Facing jailtime for spyware porn
A 40-year-old former substitute teacher from Connecticut is facing prison time following her conviction for endangering students by exposing them to pornographic material displayed on a classroom computer.
Local prosecutors charged that the teacher was caught red-handed surfing for porn in the presence of seventh graders. The defense claimed the graphic images were pop-up ads generated by spyware already present on the computer prior to the teacher’s arrival. The jury sided with the prosecution and convicted her of four counts of endangering a child, a crime that brings a punishment of up to 10 years per count. She is due to be sentenced on March 2.
I had a chance this week to speak with the accused, Windham, Conn., resident Julie Amero. Amero described herself as the kind of person who can hardly find the power button on a computer, saying she often relies on written instructions from her husband explaining how to access e-mail, sign into instant messaging accounts and other relatively simple tasks.
Read the entire article, clickthrough to its links. You will find that in this case, as in so many others, the jury believed the police over a computer forensics expert and the testimony of the teacher. Said the expert:
This was one of the most frustrating experiences of my career, knowing full well that the person is innocent and not being allowed to provide logical proof.
If there is an appeal and the defense is allowed to show the entire results of the forensic examination in front of experienced computer people, including a computer literate judge and prosecutor, Julie Amero will walk out the court room as a free person.
Technophobia and sex panic combine in a lethal mix to find innocent people guilty. We need a Barry Sheck and Peter Neufeld of the computer forensics world. We need those who look for innocence, rather than only those who look for - and assume - guilt.
NOTE: Criminalizing the IT department for an expired firewall or not installing spam blockers isn’t that answer either:exclaim:
LATER: Mike Conwell, a computer consultant from Austin, TX angered at the conviction has a blog dedicated the Amero case, state v. Amero.
A plea appended to all of my Amero posts:
WE NEED A COMPUTER FORENSICS INNOCENCE PROJECT; a Barry Sheck and Peter Neufeld of the computer forensics world. We need experts who believe in the presumption of innocence and are willing to spend the time it takes to dig through logs, registry entries and hard drives to find exculpatory material when present. This is hardly the first case of its kind and, unfortunately, it’s not likely be the last. Prosecutors who look for - and presume - guilt do selective searches for data supporting guilt; those accused rarely have the resources to pay computer forensics experts to counter that selective evidence.
Peter Singer on Ashley’s Treatment
The Food, Ethics and the Environment conference I’ve been talking about lately was put together by Peter Singer. As it happens, today Singer has an OpEd in the Times about The “Ashley Treatment.” Ashely is a little girl born with static encephalopathy, a condition that means she may never walk, talk, eat or sit up on her own, and her mental abilities will never develop past that of a six-month-old baby. The controversial treatment will surgically limit her growth so she will never grow larger than a six-year-old child.
Singer addresses the three argument against such treatment - that it’s unnatural, that it sets us on a slippery slope and that it robs Ashley of her dignity. While I find myself in complete agreement with Singer, I can’t do justice to those arguments here. I urge you to read the piece. To better entice you, I quote his conclusion:
What matters in Ashley’s life is that she should not suffer, and that she should be able to enjoy whatever she is capable of enjoying. Beyond that, she is precious not so much for what she is, but because her parents and siblings love her and care about her. Lofty talk about human dignity should not stand in the way of children like her getting the treatment that is best both for them and their families.
Peace Not Apartheid
I have not weighed in on Carter’s new book. I’m with Jimmy.
The Wilson Prosecutor
More from the ESPN story on Genarlow Wilson:
Every story needs a villain, and in this one, the villain’s hat has been placed squarely on the head of Barker, the prosecutor and a former college baseball player. Barker doesn’t write the laws in the books to the left of his desk. He simply punishes those who break them.
“We didn’t want him to get the 10 years,” he says. “We understand there’s an element out there scratching their heads, saying, ‘How does a kid get 10 years under these facts?’ “
In Barker’s eyes, Wilson should have taken the same plea agreement as the others. Maintaining innocence in the face of the crushing wheels of justice is the ultimate act of vanity, he believes.
“I understand what he’s saying,” Barker says. “I think he’s making a bad decision in the long run. Being branded a sex offender is not good; but at the same time, if it made the difference between spending 10 years as opposed to two? Is it worth sitting in prison for eight more years, and you’re still gonna be a sex offender when you get out?”
Barker is quick to point out that he offered Wilson a plea after he’d been found guilty—the first time he has ever done that. Of course, the plea was the same five years he’d offered before the trial—not taking into account the rape acquittal. Barker thinks five years is fair for receiving oral sex from a schoolmate. None of the other defendants insisted on a jury trial. Wilson did. He rolled the dice, and he lost. The others, he says, “took their medicine.”
No Mr. Barker, he did not turn down a 2 year sentence. It is a life sentence as a registered sex offender for accepting consensual sex with an age appropriate peer. If ever there was cruel and unusual punishment, this is it. We may not like to accept the sexual activity of our young people, but the answer is not to criminalize teens and brand them pedophiles.
The Georgia sex offender law, passed in 2003 and still blocked by the courts - and certainly familiar to Mr. Barker - bars sex offenders from living within 1000 feet of school bus stops, churches, schools, child-care centers and other places where children congregate; the goal of this odious ineffective law is to make our problem
go move away. Maybe to your state. That’s Christian?
Barker’s office could release Genarlow today. His ineffective pandering to a hyped sex panic feeds the crime; his prosecutorial pandering to a law-and-order-loving base is forever unforgivable.
At the same time this trial was under way, a local high school teacher, a white female, was found guilty of having a sexual relationship with a student—a true case of child molestation. The teacher received 90 days. Wilson received 3,650 days.
Now, if Wilson wants a shot at getting out, he must throw himself at the prosecutors’ feet and ask for mercy, which he might or might not receive. Joseph Heller would love this. If Wilson would only admit to being a child molester, he could stop receiving the punishment of one. Maybe.
“Well,” Barker says, “the one person who can change things at this point is Genarlow. The ball’s in his court.”
Hope for Genarlow
THE STATE’S HIGHEST COURT gave no explanation when it refused to hear the appeal of Genarlow Wilson, a young man whose case made headlines after he was convicted of aggravated child molestation for having what he says was unforced oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17.
But in a concurring opinion, Presiding Justice Carol W. Hunstein said that although she was sympathetic to Wilson, who is serving a 10-year sentence, the court couldn’t help him because the Legislature had refused to make retroactive a new law that would downgrade Wilson’s actions from a felony to a misdemeanor.
State Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, said he took Hunstein’s words as an invitation. This week he introduced legislation that he said he hopes would allow a judge to re-sentence Wilson under the more lenient sentencing provision. [...]
Jones’ Senate Bill 37 proposes that a judge at any point may change a sentence imposed on someone convicted prior to July 2006 of certain sex offenses that last year’s legislation deemed misdemeanors because they covered activity between teens in certain age ranges.
Wilson’s lawyer, B.J. Bernstein of Decatur, said that would give trial judges clear direction: When resentencing those cases, they could disregard mandatory minimums imposed by statutes amended in 2006.