Spyware case finally closed for teacher Julie Amero

Julie Amero was facing 40 years in prison

The case against Julie Amero is finally closed.

On Friday, prosecutors reached a plea agreement with the former Connecticut schoolteacher who at one time faced up to 40 years in prison after being convicted of endangering minors. The charges stemmed from a 2004 incident in which a computer loaded with spyware displayed pornography to her students.

State prosecutors dropped four felony charges of "risk of injury to a minor" against her, with Amero pleading guilty to a disorderly conduct misdemeanor, according to the Hartford Courant.

A jury convicted Amero of the felony charges in January 2007, but the presiding judge in the case, Hillary Strackbein, set aside that verdict five months later, essentially granting Amero a new trial.

Amero will pay a $100 charge and have her Connecticut teaching credentials revoked, said Sunbelt Software Inc. CEO Alex Eckelberry, who led the team of computer investigators that analyzed the school's computer and concluded that Amero was innocent.

"The stress of this thing,… it just totally freaked her out," Eckelberry said Friday. "For four years, she's been sitting there with this thing hanging over her."

"It's disappointing that it wasn't dropped, but on the other hand I'm happy she got her life back," he added.

Amero had become a cause celebre to computer security professionals who argued that she was an innocent victim of spyware programs that took control of a poorly configured computer on Oct. 19, 2004, at Kelly Middle School in Norwich, Conn., where Amero had been a substitute teacher.

Prosecutors had argued that Amero, who was pregnant at the time of the incident, endangered students by not shutting off the computer after it began displaying pornographic images. Her supporters said she was an innocent victim of a spyware program.

Eckelberry said he had spoken with Amero late Friday.

"She was good," he said. "She was really, really happy."

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