Space Ramblings

Julie Amero’s Persecutors Have Blood on Their Hands

While the Norwich Bulletin continues despicably defending the actions of prosecutor David Smith in prosecuting Julie Amero after a classroom computer developed a spyware infection resulting in pornographic pop ups, the Hartford Courant is providing excellent coverage via Rick Smith’s columns.

The contrast is huge between a professional newspaper and professional journalism and a slimy small time coverup by local players of a despicable case and a blatantly unwarranted prosecution. Considering that Julie Amero lost her baby because of this case, I’d say David Smith and her school and the Norwich Bulletin and everyone who had a role in prosecuting her have human blood on their hands.

Let’s see the brave anti-abortion activists try them for murder.

“Back in that optimistic fall of 2004 – before a Google search of her name would yield about 300,000 results – everything was falling in place for 37-year-old Julie Amero.

On the humid, overcast morning of Oct. 19, she races out of the house shortly after 7, glancing at the sunflowers still blooming in the backyard, their tall stalks rising hopefully toward the sky. A little careless, she doesn’t bother with a jacket.

Amero is in love and finally married to Wesley Volle, a man she dated for years. They live in the rural country of north Windham, on a hillside of dense forest not far from wide-open cornfields.

After much effort, Amero is pregnant. Wes and Julie plan to tell their families at Christmas.

Amero, who has open and run day-care centers, is a teacher accredited by the state and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. But these days, she likes the routine of substitute teaching – do what you are told, don’t touch anything – and it’s a pretty easy $80.

Her phone rings every day with jobs. After the school day, there’s still time to work in the garden, run with the dog in the woods and watch TV with Wes at night.

She’s a sub where “there’s never a complaint about anything,” according to Fred Ashton, assistant principal at nearby Windham Tech, “a dependable sub who followed the teachers’ directions.”

Shortly before 8 a.m. she returns to the classroom to find two boys giggling in front of Napp’s computer.

If there is a moment Amero could return to – if she could stop the video that loops endlessly in her mind and grab these two boys by the scruff of the neck and march them down to the principal’s office – this is it.

Amero, though, has no idea what to do. She’s capable of little more than navigating e-mail. A ticking porn bomb inside a computer running ancient Windows98 software is about to explode.

The school district has not paid its bills and Internet-filtering software has not been updated in months. Weeks before, malicious software known as “spyware” and “adware” invaded the computer.

The boys have gone to a website featuring teenage hairstyles. Soon, though, the computer will be automatically redirected to an endless stream of 2-inch by 2-inch pornographic “pop-up” windows.

Her life has changed forever.

Approaching the computer, Amero now sees a screen cluttered with small pornographic images inside “a box, behind a box, behind a box.”

“I clicked the `X’ box in the corner. One would go away and as soon as I got to the next one, they were all over the screen,” she recalls.

Friends and former co-workers will say they aren’t surprised that Amero failed to immediately yank the plug or turn off the monitor. Amero was worried about one thing.

“I did not want to freak out.”

It never occurs to her to look for a button to turn the machine off. She’s got no jacket to throw over the monitor. She remembers the rule for all subs. Don’t touch anything.

So she spends the morning trying to click the boxes closed, while keeping students away from a computer that – as assistant state’s attorney Smith would later say – was “boom, boom, boom” pumping out the porn.

It isn’t long before students figure out something is up. She turns the computer and moves to block students from the glowing screen. Tiny windows reveal glimpses of naked bodies, breasts, skimpy clothing and more.

“She told me not to look and she pushed my face away … took her hand and just pushed my face,” one student testifies in court.

During a break later that morning Amero – now in full freak-out – runs to the teachers’ lounge, where there are four colleagues, including the school’s technology instructor.

“She was very, very upset. We asked, all asked her, what was the matter,” Merja Lehtinen, a former tutor at the school, says during the trial.

“She said, `Does anybody know how to stop pop-up screens?'”

Instead, Amero recalls she was told to relax and take her break because “pop-ups happen all the time.”

Amero was arrested Nov. 10, 2004, and charged with 10 counts of risk of injury to a minor. In the months after her arrest, she would lose the baby and go on medication.

Over almost 2– years, she has never wavered from her story of a computer gone wild.

“I’ve been around children my whole life. I’ve never had any issues,” she says. “I put my body in front of that computer. I stood in front of that computer so children could not see.”

Shortly before the trial began in January, Amero refused an offer of “accelerated rehabilitation” – to the dismay of Smith.

“He walks up to me. `You better think about taking AR or you are going to spend 18 years in jail,'” Amero recalls.

At the trial, Smith shows he isn’t bluffing.

Hartz is asked if Amero’s scenario – a computer slipping into “an endless loop” of uncontrollable pornographic websites popping up – is possible.

“I’ve never seen that,” he says, “so I would have to say probably not.”

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