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Teen who tampered with teacher's computer faces felony charge

A Florida eighth-grader is charged with a cybercrime after admitting he replaced the background image on the computer with one of two men kissing because he didn't like the teacher.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Domanik Green, 14. Pranker and alleged felon. ABC 10 screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

In days of yawning yore, pranks might deserve a spank. Rarely, though, did they lead to felony charges.

But this is a new, digitally connected, permanently frightened world.

We are also talking about Florida. This is a state that I personally love and laugh at without waiting for a second breath.

I am therefore simultaneously moved and unsurprised by the story of 14-year-old Domanik Green.

Domanik admitted to the Tampa Bay Times last week that he'd been a slightly naughty boy.

How naughty? Well, he had discovered his school's computer network password by the devious means of looking over a teacher's shoulder as he typed it in. He then accessed the computer of a teacher he says he didn't like, according to the Tampa Bay Times, and replaced the desktop's background image with one of two men kissing.

In Florida, it seems, this is even worse than mentioning climate change in an official meeting. Domanik has been charged with a felony -- unauthorized access to a computer system.

He told the Tampa Bay Times: "I logged into a teacher's computer who I didn't like and tried putting inappropriate pictures onto his computer to annoy him."

Domanik, who has been suspended from Paul R. Smith Middle School, has been sanctioned before for his nefarious computer habits. However, I contacted the Pasco County Sheriff's Office to wonder whether this punishment was a little harsh.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Eddie Daniels Jr. confirmed Monday the felony charge to me. He explained: "It is likely, although we don't determine or have any say so in what a judge's decision is, that the teen will go into some sort of juvenile diversion program and the charge will not be on his record."

Daniels told me that Domanik had first attempted to put pornography on the teacher's computer, but the firewall had prevented it. He said the photo of the kissing men had been obtained from Google images. There are such things on Google?

The felony charge has been leveled against Domanik, Daniels told me, "because of the totality of everything done -- illegally logging onto a restricted system, administrators later watching and recording him do it again, and information gathered through the interview conducted by our detectives with the student and others. It rose to the felony charge."

But soon Domanik will rise to be 15. Was such an apparently draconian charge the only way to set him on straighter and narrower paths? At least he wasn't put in jail. Well, this is just a white (school uniform)-collared offense.

There are no allegations that he accessed any sort of personal or examination material. This, though, seems no excuse for the local sheriff. As the Tampa Bay Times reported, Sheriff Chris Nocco said: "Even though some might say this is just a teenage prank, who knows what this teenager might have done?"

The thought of criminal charges based on what a 14-year-old might have done seems a tantalizingly troubling one.

Isn't it a little like charging, say, a police officer for the possibility he might shoot someone illegally?