What can be done now for Julie Amero?
June 1, 2007 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Julie Amero. Are there ANY concrete actions a non-expert stranger could take to decrease the chance she'll do jail time?

Julie Amero is the substitute teacher in Connecticut who's currently facing up to 40 years in jail, for having been present in the same room as a malware-infested computer when it displayed popup porn ads in view of students. She's gotten international support from amazed techies (including a full-page ad in her local paper, taken out by 28 concerned computer science professors, saying she did not originate and could not have controlled the popups).

Her sentencing has now been postponed twice (maybe a good sign?) and is currently scheduled for June 6th. Her husband has a small blog with a list of local officials' contact info but it's not clear which of these officials would be important or relevant to contact at this point. Beyond that, is there anything else I or others could do? (Legal, sane and non-assholish please... this is a serious situation, please let's talk about real possibilities if there are any left.) There was a mefi thread about this in January but it has no discussion of actions that could be taken.

I find this a truly frightening case -- sure makes me want to never again be in the same classroom as a child and a computer.
posted by lorimer to Law & Government (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Anti-Spyware community, understandably up in arms about this farce of justice, has pretty much taken up her case and is, I believe, working on an appeal already. I have a few friends and professional contacts that are involved enough so that they can't actually discuss the case with me at this point. I realize that piece of info doesn't actually help you in finding something concrete to do about it, but maybe knowing people are working on the issue will make you feel better.

As far as what you CAN do, there is apparently a Julie Amero Legal Defense Fund, which can be found at her blog. Beyond that, I'm not really sure, unless you live in Connecticut, and their AG is elected.
posted by Inkoate at 8:51 AM on June 1, 2007

Not much you can do. The legal system is designed to keep public opinion out of the process (the prosecutor represents the state, and hence the public).

However, when she is sentenced, you should call some advocacy groups like the ACLU or the EFF to file amicus curiae brief on her behalf with the appellate court. An amicus brief is a brief filed by of a non-party explain how the appellate courts treatment of the case may affect interests not represented in court. From one of these groups, the brief would lay out the technical case but also raise the difficult questions the case presents. If a parent is using a malware infested computer and it displays a pornographic pop-up in the presence of the minor, would that constitute child abuse?

You can always call the prosecutor yourself with the questions, though they don't do much. If I were you 'd call all these advocacy groups, make sure they are aware of the case, and request that they file a brief. (You might also want to donate some money to them before you start making demands of them.)
posted by Pastabagel at 8:54 AM on June 1, 2007

I agree 100% about contributing to her defense fund and I hope everyone reading this who has the ability to contribute will consider doing so.

Even more serious than the likely jail time, the sex offender label, the lost income and the huge legal bills (20K+ of legal bills so far; she was making 10K a year as a substitute teacher), there is the horrible loss reported at the end of this blog entry.

Even if it seems cold to talk about cash as the best "help," in a nightmare of these proportions, cash really is the most practical help non-experts can give right now. Realistically, she will be sentenced in the same profoundly tech-ignorant context in which she was tried and concivted, and the solution for that is not pre-sentencing action but rather post-sentencing appeals, which will take time and money.
posted by allterrainbrain at 9:36 AM on June 1, 2007

Most importantly, if you're ever on a jury, please don't be an idiot. Not that I think you would be.
posted by The World Famous at 9:54 AM on June 1, 2007

Attend the sentencing.
posted by footnote at 9:59 AM on June 1, 2007

Most importantly, if you're ever on a jury, please don't be an idiot.

Given the huge mistakes that her lawyer made that prevented the jury from hearing a proper defense, I wouldn't be so quick to blame the jury.
posted by smackfu at 10:02 AM on June 1, 2007

smackfu, you raise a good point.

Let me amend my previous post:

Most importantly, if you're ever on a jury, please don't be an idiot. Likewise, if you're ever a lawyer, please don't be an idiot.
posted by The World Famous at 10:22 AM on June 1, 2007

If your interest is the larger issue then your interests are clearly best represented by an appeal to reverse the actual ruling. If your interest is the specific injustice at hand then your time might (and I emphasize might) be better spent lobbying the governor for a pardon. If the facts of the case are truly as simple as they have been represented above then it seems like an instance where executive privilege would be called for.
posted by frieze at 10:30 AM on June 1, 2007

Many people have had the same thought as frieze, but in CT, executive pardon won't be considered until the appeals process has been exhausted.
posted by allterrainbrain at 11:02 AM on June 1, 2007

I think the two most helpful things you can do right now would be to write the judge yourself, presenting as serious and rational an argument as possible, and contribute to her defense fund.

Lawyering for a criminal defense is expensive, even if the attorney is forgiving or holding back some of their fees. There's a lot of stuff that needs to be done and paid for. Lawyering for a criminal appeal, even at the state level, is at a whole 'nother level and will only get more expensive.

Personally, I'm betting that she receives a suspended sentence. The delays most likely represent behind-the-scenes machinations suggesting a deal being worked out. The conviction remains appalling, and she will no doubt appeal it regardless, but the judge won't likely move to set aside the jury verdict unless there's a strong legal (rather than factual) argument.
posted by dhartung at 1:05 PM on June 1, 2007

Ask Metafilter: Please don't be an idiot.
posted by Caviar at 1:57 PM on June 1, 2007

Nah, I think for a mefi post we did okay on the snark vs. real ratio here. I just put in my original disclaimer to preempt the inevitable suggestions like "infect every computer in the school district with goatse popups so they can see what REAL porn is."

For the record, I don't think her defense lawyer gave her the most tech-savvy defense, and we all know the issue with juries being made (mostly) of the people who have nothing better to do than be on a jury for free or almost free.

You can't afford the snazziest lawyer when you can barely afford a lawyer. Which of course is one of many factors that feed the spiral of lower-income people getting less justice.

So anyone who's inspired to, please contribute if you can to the defense fund!

posted by lorimer at 4:28 PM on June 1, 2007

SHE HAS BEEN GIVEN A NEW TRIAL. As of this morning: previous verdict vacated, new trial granted but not scheduled yet.

Thank God.

(Note this doesn't change the fact that she still needs donations and support.)
posted by lorimer at 7:37 AM on June 6, 2007

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