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Sentencing Postponed Again in Conn. Teacher’s Case

Sentencing Postponed Again in Conn. Teacher’s Case
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May 21, 2007 2:00 PM PDT    Text size: 
NORWICH, Conn. — The state of Connecticut has delayed for a fourth time the sentencing hearing for Julie Amero, the substitute teacher convicted of exposing a classroom of seventh graders to Internet adult content, following a controversial trial that many critics say should never have taken place.

Amero’s sentencing was originally scheduled to take place March 2, and has now been delayed until at least June 6.

In explaining the sentencing delay, New London County State’s Attorney Michael Regan said, “There were issues raised by the defense subsequent to the trial.”

Regan’s comment echoes a statement made in late April by Assistant State’s Attorney David J. Smith, when requesting the second postponement of the sentencing hearing.

“The state has not completed a full examination of all the issues which may affect its position at the sentencing hearing,” Smith said.

The prosecution statements stand in stark contrast to their arguments at trial, during which Smith repeatedly asserted that the evidence against Amero was “overwhelming.”

“The evidence is very strong, very clear-cut, that the defendant was the only person that had access to that computer,” Smith said during his closing argument.

Smith derided the notion that the pornography displayed on the computer came from popup consoles, and not from intentional porn surfing on Amero’s part, as “ridiculous."

The strength of the state’s case began to be called into doubt before the trial had concluded, as computer forensics experts across the country reading accounts of the case found reason to question the state’s assertions.

One defense expert, W. Herbert Horner, has maintained throughout that there is ample proof to show that the pornographic sites were displayed as a result of viruses that had infected the school’s computer. It has also been revealed that the school’s antivirus software subscription had expired, leaving its computers vulnerable to exploitation.

When the state requested a delay in sentencing last month, Horner said it came as no shock to him.

“I’m not surprised,” Horner said, “simply because, had they done a thorough investigation the first time, we wouldn't be having this discussion.”

Following a previous request to delay Amero’s sentencing, Regan said, “In general, we have an obligation and a duty to make sure justice is done.”

Nancy Williard of the Center for Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet, a vocal critic of the state’s prosecution of Amero, said she’s encouraged by the prosecution’s statements in seeking the delay.

“By taking this action, the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice has indicated it clearly understands that its mission is ‘justice’ and not simply to achieve convictions,” Willard said.

Willard, who wrote a commentary on the case entitled “The Julie Amero Tragedy,” said that the decision to delay sentencing “speaks well to their commitment to do what is right.”

“Those of us who have been defending Julie have encouraged a closer look at the facts,” Willard said.

Amero faces up to 40 years in prison for her conviction, 10 years for each of the four counts of risk of injury to a minor. Amero’s attorney, John Cocheo, has pledged that he will appeal the case, regardless of the eventual outcome of the sentencing hearing.

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