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Prosecutor: no charges in webcam spy scandal


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Federal authorities announced Tuesday they will not prosecute administrators connected to a webcam spying scandal at a suburban Philadelphia school district.

Prosecutors and the FBI opened an inquiry following a February privacy lawsuit accusing Lower Merion School District officials of spying on students with webcams on the 2,300 district-issued MacBooks. The lawyers who filed the lawsuit claim the district secretly snapped thousands of webcam images of students, including images of youths at home, in bed or even "partially dressed."

Zane David Memeger, the United States attorney for the Easter District of Pennsylvania, said he found no criminal intent in the alleged surveillance.

"I have concluded that bringing criminal charges is not warranted in this matter," Memeger said in a statement. "For the government to prosecute a criminal case, it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged acted with criminal intent. We have not found evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone involved had criminal intent."

When the story first broke in February, the district said the LanRev program tracking cameras were activated only a handful of times when a laptop was reported stolen or missing.

Mark Haltzman, the lawyer suing the district, said Memeger's decision underscores the need to bolster privacy legislation.

He added that he does not believe Tuesday's developments will affect his case, brought on behalf of a sophomore student.

"Did OJ Simpson get sued when he was found innocent of criminal charges?" Haltzman asked in a telephone interview. "One has to do with criminal law; the other has to do with civil statutes."

"I think what this means is that the existing laws have flaws," he added.

In February, the district deactivated the LanRev theft tracking software secretly installed on student laptops.

Haltzman's suit was based on a claim by sophomore Blake Robbins that school officials reprimanded him for "improper behavior" based on photos the computer secretly took of the boy at home last fall. That "behavior" turned out to be pill popping, Haltzman said. The family said their son was eating Mike and Ike candy.

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