Feds Say Judge Blocking Investigation Access To Laptop Spy Scandal Photos
from the maybe-you-should-have-thought-things-through dept
Things aren't looking too hot for the Pennsylvania school district that thought it would be a good idea to use student laptop webcams to spy on students at home. E-mails acquired by the lawyer heading up a civil suit against the administrator and the school district seem to highlight how the administrator had a wonderful time spying on students, while also indicating that tens of thousands of photos were taken (contrary to district claims that barely any photos were taken). As many of our commenters had wondered, it appears the lawyer may be trying to bolster his case by potentially bringing the administrator up on child porn charges -- assuming the photos involved nudity and were offloaded to her home PC. The administrator behind the plan denies those charges, and only just last weekend decided to stop pleading the Fifth and hand over the PC in question to a computer forensics expert hired by the district.
While the legality of spying on students with webcams remains in dispute, the potential child porn angle of the case has caught the eye of a federal grand jury and the FBI, who are investigating the district. But, in an added wrinkle, federal prosecutors are now claiming that a U.S. District Judge is hampering their investigation into the case. The Feds are complaining about a recent Judge order banning anyone from disseminating evidence involving the case to anyone not directly involved in the lawsuit. Prosecutors, of course, want to get their hands on the photographs taken by the webcams (which are now estimated to total 56,000 -- with only one made public), and are asking the Judge to modify his order (which was asked for by the plaintiffs) accordingly.
Interestingly, in an effort to try and control media coverage of the case, a group of area parents are asking the same U.S. District Judge to issue an order banning anyone involved in the case from giving interviews "near district schools or students' homes":
"...wearied by the international attention caused by the suit, a group of Lower Merion parents asked the judge Friday to ban lawyers and other parties in the case from giving interviews near district schools or students' homes. "We and many other parents of Lower Merion School District are outraged by the substantial distraction that the recent media frenzy has visited upon our district and our community," the parents wrote to U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois. "The incessant news cycles about this litigation are plainly taking their toll on the education of our children," the parents' letter said. "It has become a harmful distraction to the very persons that plaintiffs and their counsel seek to represent."Trying to lock down media coverage and evidence doesn't appear to be helping. Meanwhile, the school district is lucky to be wealthy enough to not only give a significant chunk of their 6,000+ students Apple laptops, but also to be able to afford their legal bill -- which is estimated as having already broken the half a million dollar mark. That's barely half of 1 percent of the current $193 million budget of the Lower Merion School District. So, the scandal has resulted not only in a lawsuit and a huge (and growing) legal bill, but also in a national firestorm. It has given several politicians a re-election platform, prompted the creation of potential new national privacy legislation, and resulted in an FBI investigation. How's that stolen laptop and surveillance project working out again?