Thursday, March 13, 2008

The continuing nightmare of Julie Amero

Official Connecticut is showing just how abusive, and medieval, it treats its citizens. A teacher that had nothing to do with porn popping up on a laptop computer faced decades in prison, allegedly miscarried a baby, and goes through daily torment, not knowing if she will be maliciously prosecuted by a system with officials that will knowingly prosecute an innocent woman.

Do they want to terrorize her out of suing and going after Connecticut police for misconduct and citizen abuse? What about the ridiculousness of Connecticut courts and judges, do they want to keep the pressure on her to keep her terrorized and quiet.

the subject blogged on [here]

Pausing For A Few Follow-Ups

Rick Green
January 1, 2008

Before we step any further into the new year, let's return to a few columns from 2007.

The last time I saw Julie Amero, outside a courthouse in Norwich, it appeared that justice had finally prevailed: Her wrongful conviction had been thrown out.

It was last June when Judge Hillary B. Strackbein tossed out the state's Keystone Cops conviction of Amero on bogus charges that she exposed seventh-graders to Internet porn while substituting at a Norwich Middle School.

Amero was teaching a class when a computer in her room was taken over by software that spewed an unending, uncontrollable stream of pornographic images. Although she physically blocked students from seeing the images, Amero failed to turn the machine off. For this, the school's principal, superintendent and local police fed her to the wolves.

Computer security experts eventually forced Judge Strackbein to throw the conviction out. Incredibly, the state of Connecticut still has not decided whether to retry Amero.

"It's pending on the trial list," New London State's Attorney Michael Regan said when I called him the other day. "I won't have any comment about that."

I turned to Kevin Kane, the chief state's attorney, to ask about this embarrassing episode.

"Sometimes in life you have to wait," Kane told me. "There is not a thing I can share with you."

One of Amero's leading supporters, Florida software executive Alex Eckelberry, told me he was at a recent conference in Vienna, Austria, where the Amero case was presented as an example of justice run amok.

"They were absolutely astounded," said Eckelberry, who helped assemble a team of experts to rebut the house-of-cards prosecution of Amero.

When I get the weekly calls from folks complaining about our probate court system I tell them reforms passed by the state legislature could begin to force consolidation, better training for staff and a more open hearing process.

Judge James Lawlor, who presides over the creaking, largely independent probate courts, told me things are going to get better in 2008 ­ if the courts don't go bankrupt.

"We lost $2 million last year," Lawlor told me last week.

Now, people with complaints can appeal directly to Lawlor to have the case moved to a different court. "We see courts becoming more professional," Lawlor said.

Later this month, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals will take up the case of Burlington High School student Avery Doninger, who was punished by administrators for using an offensive phrase while writing on a blog ­ at home.

In September, a federal judge ruled in favor of Lewis Mills High School administrators, who blocked Doninger from serving in a student government position after the superintendent of schools stumbled upon the teenager's crude Internet posting.

"High school students are citizens of this country. They have First Amendment rights," said Doninger's lawyer, Jon L. Schoenhorn. "It is the essence of big brother politics to allow school administrators to reach into the home and punish, against the will of the parent, for something one writes or expresses that is not threatening to anybody."

Teach for America
, which blows fresh air into stuffy public school classrooms by recruiting recent graduates to serve two-year stints as teachers, could be on to something. The national organization hopes in 2008 to expand beyond the 115 people working in Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven, said Emily Barton, a Yale graduate supervising the Connecticut initiative.

Answering criticism that Teach for America doesn't offer long-term solutions, Barton told me that about 70 percent of recruits stay in education. There are 23 teachers working in Hartford this year, including Peter Lavorini, a Pennsylvania native working at Burr School.

"This is a conversion experience," Barton said. "I don't know anyone who does this for resume building. It's just too hard."

Finally, the story of Rene Bernasconi, the East Hartford man fighting eviction from a rooming house, appears to be ending on a sad note.

Landlord John Forrest, who was troubled by my column that criticized Bernasconi's possible eviction from his building, told me Bernasconi's messy habits and behavior had become a health hazard for other tenants. A few weeks ago he was removed from his apartment when the town of East Hartford agreed and found it "unfit for human occupancy."

"I feel bad for him. The guy needs help. He's blind. He's mentally ill," said Forrest, who did the right thing by calling in inspectors from the town to assess Bernasconi's filthy room. Forest said he will continue his efforts to permanently bar Bernasconi from the building.

"He's an example of where the system fails people," Forrest said. "He needs to be in a supervised situation."

Forrest said Bernasconi is living in a shelter.

Rick Green's column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at

Copyright © 2007, The Hartford Courant

1 comment:

Bob R. said...


Thank you for keeping up on the Julie Amero saga. This is truely sad. I had been folliwing the story last year with great interest as my wife is a public school teacher and something like what happened to Julie could happen to just about any teacher using district computers.

Please keep on this and let the state attorneys know that the world is still watching and waiting. Is there a limit on time if the states attoney wants to retry the case? Of course the have to expect the inevitable civil case.