Crime Roundup: Spying on Children, Being a Pirate Now (Sort of) OK

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What do people have to do to get charged with crimes around here?

Two cases in the news today ended anti-climactically as federal authorities declined to press exciting charges.

In the first case, federal prosecutors decided that it was totally fine for adults to give children laptops and spy on them through the computers’ webcams, so long as they were doing it to prevent theft. U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger¬†explained that his office found no criminal intent in the part of the Lower Merion School District, which gave students laptops equipped with anti-theft software and then collected 56,000 screenshots and webcam images of them without their knowledge. Students learned of the spying when confronted in disciplinary proceedings with screenshots taken of them in the privacy of their homes.

Fortunately for unsuspecting students in the Philadelphia metro region, he district has already revised its laptop policies. Students now must be informed of and consent to any remote tacking of the computers. A civil invasion-of-privacy suit, filed by one student against Lower Merion earlier this year, remains unsettled — as does the larger question of whether schools can punish students for behavior that takes place outside of school.

Following the tastes of the American moviegoer in the early years of the past decade, NewsFeed will now switch from spies to pirates! A federal judge today dropped piracy charges against six Somalians who were captured after attempting to attack the USS Ashland off the coast of Djibouti earlier this year. Judge Raymond A. Jackson ruled that the government’s definition of piracy as it applied to this particular case was too broad, as the men did not attempt to capture the Ashland or rob it of treasure.

The six men will not be released to roam the high seas once more, though. They still face charges for ‘plundering’ — which is apparently different than piracy — and weapons charges.

Rest assured, however, that the real criminals are getting their just desserts. Singer Erykah Badu was fined $500 and sentenced to six months of probation for disorderly conduct stemming from the shooting of her “Window Seat” music video, during which she stripped naked and pretended to be shot in the head in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza.