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Judge tentatively dismisses case in MySpace hoax that led to teenage girl's suicide

Lori drew A federal judge tentatively decided today to dismiss the case against a Missouri woman who had been convicted of computer fraud stemming from an Internet hoax that prompted a teenage girl to commit suicide.

Lori Drew of Dardenne Prairie, Mo., was convicted in November of three misdemeanor counts of illegally accessing a protected computer.

The decision by U.S. District Judge George H. Wu will not become final until his written ruling is filed, probably next week. Wu said he was concerned that if Drew was found guilty of violating the terms of service in using MySpace, anyone who violated the terms could be convicted of a crime.

Drew 50, was to be sentenced in May but Wu had delayed the sentencing until today, saying he wanted to consider the defense motion to dismiss the entire case.

A federal jury convicted Drew in November of the three misdemeanor charges but deadlocked on a felony conspiracy charge that would have carried a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The verdict was a blow to prosecutors who indicted Drew on what some called tenuous legal grounds after authorities in Missouri declined to file criminal charges. Drew was widely criticized after the 2006 death of eighth-grader Megan Meier, an acquaintance of Drew's daughter.

Prosecutors said Drew, her daughter and her 18-year-old employee used a fake profile of a teenage boy to flirt with Megan online via Beverly Hills-based MySpace. Megan hanged herself with a belt after getting a message, purportedly from the boy, telling her that "the world would be a better place without you."

At the May hearing, Wu grilled Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Krause at length about whether the government had prosecuted Drew under the appropriate laws when they asserted that violating MySpace's terms of service amounted to a crime.

"Is a misdemeanor committed by the conduct which is done every single day by millions and millions of people?" Wu asked. "If these people do read [the terms of service] and still say they're 40 when they are 45, is that a misdemeanor?"

Krause argued that Drew's acts were criminal because she signed up for the fake account with the intention of harming Megan by humiliating her. Drew knew her acts were illegal and deleted the account shortly after Megan's death to cover up her crime, he contended.

Prosecutors had asked Wu to impose a sentence of three years. Defense attorneys argued for probation and vehemently criticized the prosecution in court filings, calling its argument "utterly absurd."

Megan's parents, Ron and Tina Meier, made statements in court in May describing their daughter as a loving but vulnerable girl who went fishing with her father and cared deeply for her friends. They asked Wu to impose the maximum prison sentence.

"It just sickens me that it was an adult playing with the mind of a 13-year-old child," Ron Meier said in May.

-- Alexandra Zavis

Photo: Lori Drew. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (31)

So I guess its okay for adults to torment an underage teen girl who already is on tenous ground regarding her emotional state. If Judge Wu I believe you are mistaken and have you ever actually read any terms and conditions for any of the online communities that have kids on there. Have you forgotten what it was like to be that someone your peers made horrible comments too or about while you're standing there? I wonder sometimes why we are the way we are and how disgusting that missouri women is for even getting involved in doing this to a youngster. I suppose Ms. Drew isn't adult enough to hang online with those of her own age group.

This is painful to hear. I realize what the judge is saying about setting a precedent regarding the Terms of Service but ARE YOU KIDDING!?! This is an ADULT who went through the effort to set up a totally fake account with the sole purpose of harassing a CHILD. That harassment is the sole reason that young girl is dead. And she's just going to walk away now? Nice world we live in.

"It just sickens me that it was an adult playing with the mind of a 13-year-old child," Ron Meier said in May.

Well, now he knows how I feel about religion. It does the same exact thing, but it starts earlier.

Frankly, I really can't find this moron adult guilty as much as I want to. But she was a grown up and should have known better than to play these kids games!

This what is exactly wrong with the justice system. This woman is a disgrace to society and she is scum. I hope that the victim's family files a civil suit against Drew and My Space.

All though I dont agree with what the women did I dont believe responsible for the young girls death. When someone commits suicide it is very RARELY because of 1 thing. This girl had emotional problems before this began. Maybe her parents should be held accountable for not doing more to help the childs emotional state. Looks like faith CAN and WILL be restored in our Justice system. Maybe this can be a begining to the end of needless prosecutions.

Case dismissed? That unqualified judge Wu should be retired from the bench. That piece of trash woman Drew should receive the death penalty.

Regardless of what happens, I hope they continue to prosecute this horrible woman. She's despicable and ought to be ashamed of herself. I'd welcome jail time for this poor excuse of a mother, of a human being.

This is a victory for the rule of law over the ideals of common decency. Of course, as a free nation, we need to be able to understand that common decency is less important than the rule of law.

I am very happy about this ruling.

This is absolutely the right result, even if it does benefit a dreadful human being. Making any TOS violation a federal crime is a radical expansion of federal criminal power that could be the subject of great abuse.

So let me get this straight: MySpace isn't liable because of 230 and Lori Drew isn't liable either. Is anybody liable for what is certainly causing a mentally unstable minor to commit suicide?! Someone please amend a statute somewhere!

The girl's mother should have been watching her teenage daughter carefully. She failed on the account and shifts the blame on somebody else. Because of that, she made Lori Drew a scapegoat.

Bad deciusion. She commited a crime and ignorance is no excuse.

this is not about the girls mother who did not keep her daughter off line as some of the more stupid may think ,this is about a grown woman ,looks like a man but 50 yrs old molesting someone online morons she will get hers she has to look at her self in mirror guly as she is thats a crime !!!

Although what she did is morally wrong, I think this is the right LEGAL decision. Making the TOS on a website a criminal matter is a stretching it a bit: It's a civil manner. I don't like what this woman did, but based on the way the law is right now, she shouldn't be in jail.

To my mind , this isn't about TOS ,its about a sick twisted and deceitful human (and i use that term in its loosest way) bullying and wilfully setting out to hurt a vulnerable one . This "person" is also an adult ! The law used to be about common sense and simply what is right , not about 'motions' and precedent . She is in part responsible for this tragedy and as such should be punished and not excused .

I am delighted that this case has been dismissed. While I am not surprised that the great unwashed are upset and commenting about the law, which they know nothing of, I am concerned that a US Attorney would bring such a bizarre case. It is nothing but harassment itself and this should be referred to the California bar.

The judge followed the constitution. We still (for now) have the right of free speech. It is the responsibility of parents to monitor their children- who by the way are much more grown up then before the age of the internet. And lastly, when I look for auto insurance quotes online I change my birthday by one day and one month. Why? As a safeguard to prevent identity theft. And that is committing the same crime this woman was accused of.

Civil suit. Lori Drew should lose everything after the Meiers lost their daughter because of that woman's despicable actions.

I think I get your logic judge Wu;
1. I lie in order to set up a personal online account for the specific purpose of harming an easily impressionable teen.
2. I proceed to use this account, in concert with others, to mentally manipulate, gain trust, then torment and harm the victim, driving them to unpredictable irrationality.
3. The plot succeeds, the teen kills herself and in your court I get to go free as a lark?
I see Mr. Wu.... and if this was YOUR daughter that hung herself?
Of course the parents of eighth-grader Megan Meier had some responsibility to monitor the activities of their child, HOWEVER, this in no way gives license for a full grown adult to knowingly inflict potentially dangerous behavior upon a vulnerable young teen.
Does the Judges Manual now give a pass for acts of malice? Your ruling judge Wu is frankly just as abominable and heinous as Lori Drew's senseless contribution to Megan's death.

Judicial Cowardice !!
Do you your job or step down.

It is important to note that the judge is acquitting her because of the specific charges the prosecutor chose to bring Drew up on. The PROSECUTOR chose the incredibly poor charges to try and "nail" Drew with.

Drew is guilty of more than a few things- but 3 years for a TOS violation? The prosecutor should have picked the charges better, and there is no one to blame for that but the prosecutor- NOT the judge who is correctly worrying about precedent.

Furthermore, if you educate yourself about the case more, you'd probably begin to have doubts as to what exactly Drew is guilty of. The teen did not commit suicide after the "boy" broke up with her, nor was Drew the one who 1) signed up for the account 2) broke up with her and sent the "you should die" message.

How can someone say Lori Drew doesn't need to be prosecuted? She did a horrible thing and she should get maximum sentence! How can someone do that to a child? The laws should be more clear to include things like this.

Me personaly i think she should be chargfe under the pedophile law to gain trust of a child by saying you are a child also there a loop for conviction there especially because the law is there to protect a child from harm. second child protection service should tke her kid away for. something my god they like crawling into peaple lives.

so have the mom and dad file a civial suit and take every last cent she has and ever will have it work for OJ

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