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11-26-08, 11:43 AM #1
Mom who helped teen daughter pose as teen boy on myspace to drive 13-year-old girl to suicide faces up to 20 years in prison
The suicide of a Missouri teen could have been avoided had she not been tormented online by a mom who lived a few houses away, prosecutors said on Monday, describing the girl's death as a tragedy. The jury will begin deliberating on Tuesday in the federal case against Missouri woman Lori Drew, who is accused of posing as a teen boy on the MySpace social networking website to tease and humiliate 13-year-old Megan Meier, who later committed suicide.
Prosecutors told jurors that Drew, her daughter and a teenage employee created the profile in a plan to publicly embarrass Meier and get back at her for saying bad things about Drew's daughter.
"The tragedy in this case is not just Megan Meier's suicide," U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien said in his closing arguments to jurors.
"It's the fact that it was so preventable. If, as a 47-year-old woman Lori Drew was so upset that Megan Meier had called her daughter ugly or a lesbian, she could have gone over and talked to her mom and we wouldn't be here," he said.
Drew's attorney, H. Dean Steward, also described Meier's death as a tragedy, but he reminded jurors that Drew is not accused of homicide in Meier's death.
"Please do not add to this tragedy," he said. "This has been such a woeful, woeful case and there's been so many tears here. Don't add to it by going along with the government's case."
Drew, 49, is charged with conspiracy and accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information for the purpose of inflicting emotional distress on Meier.
She faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison if she is convicted on all of the charges.
The trial began on Wednesday, and jurors have heard the testimony of Drew's teenage daughter and Ashley Grills, who was an 18-year-old employee of Drew and sent a final message on the day of Meier's suicide in October 2006 that read in part, "The world would be a better place without you."
Grills was not charged and testified after reaching a deal with prosecutors.
Drew did not testify in her own defense. But Tina Meier, the dead girl's mother, testified that Drew knew her daughter took medication to handle her depression.
The case was tried in a federal court in Los Angeles because MySpace, the social networking site that was used to create the false profile of a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans, is based in the nearby city of Beverly Hills.
The trial is being closely watched by the burgeoning social networking industry.
Steward argued that the computer statute Drew is accused of violating was designed to stop hackers, not MySpace users.
"When you look at the facts that you've heard and you listen to the elements of the law it doesn't fit," he told jurors. "And I submit to you it's like trying to take a size 11 foot and fit it into a size 6 shoe."
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Dan Whitcomb)
11-26-08, 02:00 PM #2
I'm definitely for her getting some jail time.
11-26-08, 09:34 PM #3
What she did was utterly horrible. But........whose protected computer did she access without permission? I'm guessing that she used a computer to go to the myspace website just like any of us would. That's not accessing someones (protected) computer without athorization.
Now granted, I would have no problem with her getting jail time. This article doesn't list enough details, but it appears at most the woman might only legally be guilty of harassment, and maybe threats. But she didn't hack. Making a bogus profile isn't hacking, it's merely a violation of Myspace Terms of Service. I hope this woman gets punished. I just don't want anyone opening up a pandora's box of ultra liberal interpretation of laws that can be twisted to punish someone when the laws don't quite apply.CHIRP! CHIRP!
11-27-08, 12:36 PM #4
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A suburban mother who prosecutors say drove a love-struck 13-year-old girl to suicide by tormenting her with a fake MySpace persona was acquitted on Wednesday of the most serious charges against her.
Lori Drew was found guilty of three misdemeanor counts in the high-profile case, which made worldwide headlines and prompted calls for social networking sites like MySpace to crack down on such activities.
She was cleared of three felonies by the U.S. District Court jury, which deadlocked on a fourth count of conspiracy.
Drew, who created the fake profile after her daughter and neighbor Megan Meier had a falling out, showed no reaction as the verdicts were read and declined to answer questions from reporters as she left the courtroom.
The Missouri woman will face a sentence ranging from probation to three years behind bars for the misdemeanor convictions. She could have been sent to federal prison for up to 20 years if she had been convicted on the felony charges.
Prosecutors say Drew and others created the fake MySpace persona of a 16-year-old boy to woo Meier for several weeks, then abruptly ended the relationship and said the world would be better off without her.
Meier hanged herself in October 2006, just hours after she had read those final messages.
Prosecutors claimed that Drew, her daughter and a teenage employee created the profile to embarrass Meier publicly and get back at her for saying bad things about Drew's daughter.
Juror Shirley Hanley told Reuters outside of court she and her fellow panelists cleared Drew of the more serious charges because they could not be sure who typed the MySpace messages that so upset Megan.
EXPERTS SEE NEW LAWS
Hanley, 59, said the teen's death made the case an emotional one, adding that during deliberations, "You fan your eyes to try to keep tears from falling."
"This is about justice," Tina Meier, Megan's mother, said after the verdict. "It's justice not only for Megan but it's justice for everybody who has had to go through this with the computer and being harassed."
Experts have said the indictment, which was handed down in Los Angeles after Missouri authorities declined to prosecute Drew, was a first of its kind and was an awkward fit for the federal statute on which it was based.
"I'm not surprised at all at the verdict. It's what prosecutors commonly call a compromise verdict," University of Southern California law professor and former federal prosecutor Rebecca Lonergan said.
"The thing about this case that really bothered members of the public is the teenager's suicide, and the involvement of a grown woman in (allegedly) causing that suicide," she said. "And the main problem is that the charges weren't about the suicide. They were about computer hacking, essentially."
Lonergan said she had already heard from members of Congress who wanted to write new laws that specifically address cyber-bullying and harassment.
A spokesman for MySpace said the site did not tolerate cyber-bullying and had cooperated with prosecutors.
"MySpace respects the jury's decision and will continue to work with industry experts to raise awareness of cyber-bullying and the harm it can potentially cause," MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam said in a statement.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Peter Cooney)
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