Supporters of Julie Amero, the former substitute teacher who was granted a new trial months after being convicted of exposing her students to pop-up porn, have formed an advocacy group to help people facing similar courtroom battles.
Bearing Amero’s namesake, The Julie Group, consisting of IT security professionals, forensic experts, educators and lawyers, also was created to provide a basic platform of security education for less computer savvy end-users.
"The primary goal is to help those who have been unfairly or potentially unfairly convicted of a computer crime," founder Alex Eckelberry, the president of Sunbelt Software who led a campaign to support Amero’s claim that she was a victim of adware and spyware, told SCMagazine.com today. "The corollary goals are to educate people on the problem of computer crime, how you can be innocent but look like you’re guilty."
Last week, a Connecticut Superior Court judge ordered a new trial for Amero after ruling that erroneous testimony from a police investigator may have led the jury to its guilty verdict.
The Julie Group may have only been announced over the weekend with the launching of a modest website, but Eckelberry and others already have grand ambitions. Eckelberry said he foresees The Julie Group doing for IT security education and the falsely accused what the Southern Poverty Law Center did in the wake of the civil rights movement.
"It’s a similar type of injustice that occurs," he said. "We’re a civilized body formed to continue the fight."
The group, made up of about 50 people who appeared on the Amero listserv created by Eckelberry, is already looking into the case of an educator accused of similar crimes as Amero, he said. He would not release any more details.
The volunteer effort also has already posted about Matt Bandy, a teenager convicted of uploading child pornography when he actually was a victim of a zombie computer. He will end up not receiving jail time.
Frank Krasicki, a teacher and blogger, said the group’s main goal is to provide resources for those most in need of help.
"Preventative computing practices that minimize exposure to inappropriate content will be endorsed," he said on his blog. "Educational materials for use in schools will be examined and recommended."
The nonprofit will offer pro bono services and seek to reform state computer laws that are vague in their explanation of what constitutes a violation, Eckelberry said.
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