Defendant Says Dismissal of MySpace Hoax Case Linked to Suicide Was ‘Proper'

Lori Drew was acquitted of charges of accessing computers without authorization in the case of a girl who killed herself after a MySpace hoax.
Lori Drew was acquitted of charges of accessing computers without authorization in the case of a girl who killed herself after a MySpace hoax. (By Nick Ut -- Associated Press)
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By Linda Deutsch
Associated Press
Saturday, July 4, 2009

LOS ANGELES, July 3 -- A Missouri mother said she never should have been prosecuted for her role in a MySpace hoax directed at a 13-year-old girl who ended up committing suicide.

A federal judge this week acquitted Lori Drew of misdemeanor counts of accessing computers without authorization, finding that the law she allegedly violated was unconstitutionally vague. U.S. District Judge George Wu stressed that the ruling is tentative until he issues it in writing.

Friday, on NBC's "Today" show, Drew said she never should have been prosecuted.

"In my view, it was proper that this case was dismissed, primarily because I simply did not do what the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles accused me of doing," Drew said.

Drew was found guilty in November, but the judge said that if she were convicted of illegally accessing computers, anyone who has ever violated the social networking site's terms of service would be guilty of that offense. "You could prosecute pretty much anyone who violated terms of service," he said.

Prosecutors said at a news conference that they will decide to appeal after reviewing the written ruling. Drew's attorney, H. Dean Steward, said the ruling should mark the end of her criminal case.

The parents of Megan Meier, the teenager who killed herself, were in court for the ruling. Later, her mother, Tina Meier, said that in spite of the disappointment, she thought that justice was done because "we got the word out."

Much attention has been paid to Drew's case, primarily because it was the nation's first cyberbullying trial. The trial was held in Los Angeles because the servers of the social networking site are in the area.

Prosecutors said Drew sought to humiliate Megan by helping create a fictitious teenage boy on the social networking site and by sending flirtatious messages to the girl in his name. The fake boy then dumped Megan in a message, saying the world would be better without her.

She hanged herself a short time later, in October 2006, in the St. Louis suburb of Dardenne Prairie, Mo.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Drew violated MySpace service rules by setting up the phony profile for a boy named "Josh Evans" with the help of her daughter Sarah, then 13, and business assistant Ashley Grills.

"Josh" then told Megan she was "sexi" and assured her, "i love you so much."

Prosecutors think that Drew and her daughter, who was friends with Megan, created the profile to find out if Megan was spreading rumors about Sarah.

Grills, who testified under a promise of immunity, allegedly sent the final, insulting message to Megan before she killed herself. Prosecutors said Megan sent a response saying, " 'You are the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.' "

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