Federal Prosecutors Won't File Charges In Laptop Spying Case

It's been a few months since we heard much from the Lower Merion school district (LMSD) and the allegations of improper conduct, voyeuristic behavior, and civil rights violations leveled against administration employees and the vice principal of Harriton High School, Lindy Matsko. The case and accompanying federal investigation have been percolating for nigh on a year, but the government has finally reached a decision not to prosecute. According to US Attorney Zane David Memeger, investigators have found no evidence of criminal intent by the district's administration.

""For the government to prosecute a criminal case, it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged acted with criminal intent," Memeger said in a brief statement released by his office. "We have not found evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone involved had criminal intent."

The civil suit filed by Blake Robbins and his parents is unaffected by this decision, and there are still a number of unanswered questions regarding how the laptop cameras were used and when they were activated. For those of you who might be tuning in now, Robbins and his family sued the school after VP Lindy Matsko informed Blake that he had been caught on (web)camera engaged in "inappropriate" behavior while in his own home. As it turned out, the LMSD had failed to disclose that the 1800 laptops it distributed at the beginning of last school year were equipped with activity-monitoring software by LANRev. Said software included the ability to activate and remotely capture photos from the laptop's webcam.

Blake Robbins, with father Mickey Rourke, Jocelyn Wildenstein, and Brooke Hogan

The school district maintains that it did nothing wrong, but has since admitted to taking some 56,000 webcam photos of purportedly stolen laptops in an attempt to recover them. Back in April, the district stated it had activated its monitoring software on 42 separate occasions. That works out to some 1,333 photos per event, which seems a bit high. Blake's original filing alleges that his laptop—which was never reported stolen—captured some 400 separate photos of him and his family over a 15-day period. LMSD's own investigation claims that while the laptop cameras were never inappropriately activated, administrators often forgot to turn the tracking system off afterwards.

Inappropriate photos like this. We assume the district's response to this was: "Whoopsie."

The government's announcement is thought to clear the way for the reinstatement of the district's IT administrators, Michael Perbix and Carol Cafiero. Cafiero's woes aren't yet over—the Robbins lawsuit identifies her as a potential voyeur and quotes her describing how she loves the webcams and how they give insight into a "little LMSD soap opera."

Lower Merion has at least learned something from the international attention its laptop policies earned. The district recently released a revised version of its laptop policies and guidelines. Statements include:
The School District will only access a student's computer with the explicit written authority from parents/guardians and students. School personnel will only access a student's laptop remotely to resolve a technical problem only  if the student formally gives the district permission to do so. If the student chooses, he or she can decline the remote access and take the laptop directly to the school's IT center for repair. Theft tracking software will only  be activated if a student and parent/guardian file a police report and provide a signed "remote file access consent" form and a signed incident report to the principal verifying that a laptop has been lost or stolen. Theft tracking software would never have the capability of capturing screen shots, audio, video and on-screen text. (emphasis original)
The new regulations "Strictly prohibit remote monitoring by the District of any kind, including activation of webcams, screen shots, audio, and video," and can be read in full here
Via:  USA Today
acarzt 4 years ago

"Blake Robbins, with father Mickey Rourke, Jocelyn Wildenstein, and Brooke Hogan" lawl, that's too funny.

Also... The pic of the kid sleeping is kinda creepy.

But could be prenvted by closing the laptop screen lol

3vi1 4 years ago

>> For the government to prosecute a criminal case, it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged acted with criminal intent

This is complete BS.

The school was performing stealth video surveillance operations within private residences. That is highly illegal. Ignorance of the law (if they could somehow argue that they didn't know that was illegal) is no excuse.  If you speed through a school zone, do you think they will not prosecute you because you did not see the sign and had no criminal intent?

Pennsylvania has some of the toughest surveillance laws.

animatortom 4 years ago

They will only go after someone if they don't vote for them! That's the way it works:P

If there were such a thing as a conservative teacher, and they did this...it would totally be a federal case:P

Yeah, the parents tax dollars going to the salaries of those administrators and teachers and, then it pays for the laptops so they can take thousands of photos like this! Makes sense it is not a federal case. Yet you say the pledge of allegiance and it is run through every branch of government?

realneil 4 years ago

"Picture credit" [quote user="News"]Blake Robbins, with father Mickey Rourke, Jocelyn Wildenstein, and Brooke Hogan[/quote]

Joel, you need to correct the names on the picture's credits. The parent's names are Michael and Holly Robbins. Although Dad does look a little like "Danny" Bonaduce and a lot like Paul Simon.

A one-half inch square piece of duct-tape on the camera lens would have stopped them cold, but who knew that they were viewing kids at home without consent?

If I had one of them and thought that they were watching, I'd stage a murder in front of it just to get their juices flowing!

To get away with this activity without any Federal Prosecution happening, someone there must have a photo of the federals boffin' a goat.

fat78 4 years ago

My school is to broke to buy laptops and they get 1800?

If i worked at that school woulda only gave hot chicks a laptop. "i pick you, you, god no not you, and you" lol

Joel H 4 years ago


Fake picture credits are obviously fake. Kudos on the Paul Simon bit, though--I didn't pick that up.


"Such a thing as a conservative teacher?" You've obviously never met my mother.

animatortom 4 years ago

Really Joel, Well Maybe your Mom is the one who taught me the meaning of "facetious"

If so we can both thank herGeeked

Joel H 4 years ago

*snort* Cute. :P

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