Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Guilty Verdict In MySpace Suicide case.

Verdict in MySpace Suicide Case

(Nov 26, 2008)
LOS ANGELES — A federal jury here convicted a Missouri woman of three misdemeanor charges of computer fraud for her involvement in creating a phony account on MySpace to trick a teenager, who later committed suicide.

The defendant, Lori Drew, 49, faces up to three years in prison and $300,000 in fines, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

The jury rejected felony charges against Ms. Drew, and was deadlocked on a conspiracy count. Judge George Wu declared a mistrial on that charge.

Ms. Drew, who showed little emotion during the trial, sat stone-faced as the clerk read the jury’s findings. Tina Meier, the mother of the girl who committed suicide, shook her head slowly until the misdemeanor findings were read. None of the jurors would comment as they left the courtroom, nor would Ms. Drew, whose face was red and twisted with rage as she departed.

Her lawyer requested a new trial on the three misdemeanor counts, and the judge scheduled a hearing on that matter for late December.

The trial was an unusual use of computer fraud statutes prohibiting accessing a computer without authorization through interstate commerce to obtain information to inflict emotional distress. Local prosecutors in Missouri declined to bring charges. But Thomas O’Brien, the United States attorney here, asserted jurisdiction on the theory that MySpace is based in Los Angeles, where its servers are housed.

Mr. O’Brien, who tried the case himself with the firepower of two subordinates, said he was pleased with the verdict. "The overwhelming message,” he said, “is if you are going to attempt to annoy or go after a little girl and you’re going to use the Internet to do so, this office and others across the country will hold you responsible.”

Ms. Meier said that she hoped Ms. Drew would serve jail time, and that even without the felony convictions, she felt satisfied. "This day is not any harder then the day when I found Megan," she said. "This has never been about vengeance. This is about justice. For me it’s absolutely worth it every single day sitting in that court hoping there was justice."

During the five-day trial, prosecutors portrayed Ms. Drew as working in concert with her then 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, and Ashley Grills, a family friend and employee of Ms. Drew’s magazine coupon business, to create a good-looking teenage boy, “Josh Evans,” as an Internet identity to communicate online with Ms. Meier’s daughter Megan.

The purpose of the hoax, several witnesses testified, was to use Megan’s e-mail exchanges with "Josh" to humiliate Megan in retribution for her unkind acts toward Sarah. But the jury appeared to reject the idea that there was malicious intent behind the e-mail messages, which is required for a felony conviction. Instead, it seemed to accept the theory presented in defense testimony that the account was created simply to get information about Megan.

While it was clearly established during the trial that Ms. Grills, not Ms. Drew, set up the MySpace account, prosecutors contended that because the computer was in Ms. Drew’s home and because she frequently participated in sending e-mail messages to Megan, she violated both the user agreement of MySpace and committed felonious computer fraud, made all the more egregious because she knew that Megan had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts since the third grade.

After weeks of online courtship with "Josh,” Megan was distressed one afternoon in October 2006, according to testimony at the trial, when she received an e-mail message from him that said, "the world would be a better place without you." Ms. Grills, who is now 20, testified under an immunity agreement that shortly after that message was sent, Megan wrote back, ”You’re the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.” Megan hanged herself that same afternoon.

The last e-mail message from Megan was revealed for the first time in the trial. Ms. Drew’s lawyer, H. Dean Steward, argued that his client had minimal knowledge of the account, and had never read the user agreement. He also argued that prosecutors were trying the case as a homicide rather than as a computer fraud case.

Each day of the short trial was punctuated with highly emotional testimony, including that of Ms. Meier, who tearfully recalled finding her daughter after she hanged herself, and of Sarah, who testified, although her mother did not, about events over the 28 days that the Myspace account for “Josh” was open.

1 comment:

Ronald said...

Its too bad that bitch didnt get felony convictions. justice was not seved today but thats L.A.