Feds Won't Charge Lower Merion in Laptop Spying Case

While the civil suit continues, the Feds say no crime was committed by school district

By Teresa Masterson
|  Tuesday, Aug 17, 2010  |  Updated 2:09 PM EDT
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WebcamGate: Administrator Vehemently Denies Allegations

provided by Mark S. Haltzman, attorney

This photo of Blake Robbins sleeping was taken by a school district Webcam, states a lawsuit

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Federal prosecutors will not file charges against a Lower Merion School District or its employees over the use of remote monitoring software that's at the center of a spying allegation.

Such an announcement from federal prosecutors is rare, as the feds don't make a habit of discussing the beginning or end of an investigation, but U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger says he decided to make Tuesday's announcement to close one part of the matter before the start of the school year.

Memeger says investigators have found no evidence of criminal intent by Lower Merion School District employees who activated tracking software that took thousands of webcam and screenshot images on school-provided laptops.

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

Sixteen-year-old Blake Robbins and his family filed suit against the district in February, claiming the district invaded his privacy by activating the software. That case, in which at least 56,000 photos were captured by laptop cameras, continues.

The district has acknowledged capturing tens of thousands of screen shots and webcam images so it could locate missing laptops. The district says Robbins' webcam was activated because he wasn't authorized to take the laptop home.

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