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Mother convicted in Internet hoax case scheduled for sentencing today

May 18, 2009 | 12:13 pm

A Missouri mother convicted of committing a hoax on the social networking site MySpace that led to the suicide of a 13-year-old girl is scheduled to be sentenced this afternoon in federal court in downtown Los Angeles.

A jury convicted Lori Drew, 50, of three misdemeanor computer crimes last November, but deadlocked on a felony conspiracy charge that carried a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The mixed verdict was a blow to prosecutors in Los Angeles who indicted Drew on controversial legal grounds after prosecutors in Missouri declined to file criminal charges.

Drew became the object of widespread public criticism after the death of eighth-grader Megan Meier, a friend of Drew’s daughter.

Drew, her daughter, and an 18-year-old employee who worked for Drew used a fake profile of a teenage boy to flirt and communicate with Megan on-line via Beverly Hills-based MySpace. Megan hung herself with a belt after the fictitious boy sent her a message telling her “the world would be a better place without you.”

In court papers this month, prosecutors asked U.S. District judge George H. Wu to impose a sentence of three years, one year for each of the misdemeanor convictions.

They wrote that Drew deserved a harsher sentence than the probation office’s recommendation of probation because she knew of Megan’s history of depression and mental problems, attempted to cover up her crimes, and used minors in the crime.

Defense attorneys for Drew vehemently criticized the prosecution in court filings, calling the prosecution’s argument in seeking a three-year prison term “shocking” and “utterly absurd.”

Drew’s misdemeanor convictions for the violation of MySpace’s “terms of service” is a “novel theory that renders millions Americans felons for their everyday conduct,” attorney Dean Steward wrote.

“The government has created a fiction that Lori Drew somehow caused [Megan]’s death, and it wants a long prison sentence to make its fiction seem real,” Steward wrote. “Fortunately, this is a court of law, not a television drama.”

-- Victoria Kim