Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Guilty verdict on lesser charges in MySpace case

November 26, 2008 | 11:28 am

Lori Drew arrives at federal court in MySpace case

A Los Angeles federal jury today convicted a Missouri mother of misdemeanor charges in the nationally watched MySpace cyber-bullying case involving the suicide of a 13-year-old girl. But the jury rejected more serious felony charges against Lori Drew.

Drew, 49, was accused of violating federal computer statutes and one count of conspiracy for creating the MySpace account in the name of a fictitious 16-year-old boy and using it to engage in an online relationship with 13-year-old Megan Meier.

Meier, of Dardenne Prairie, Mo., hanged herself Oct. 16, 2006, after the fictitious boy, “Josh Evans,” told her the world would be a better place without her, prosecutors alleged.

During the five-day trial in front of U.S. District Judge George H. Wu, prosecutors sought to portray Drew as a callous and reckless woman who gleefully took part in the hoax on Meier, despite knowing the girl had struggled with depression for years and had a vulnerable psyche. Among the government’s witnesses were a close friend of Drew, a business associate and her hairdresser, each of whom testified that Drew had admitted playing a role in the hoax.

Drew’s attorney, H. Dean Steward, had accused the government of overreaching by prosecuting his client for something that people routinely do on the Internet: Create bogus identities. He also sought to cast Megan as a deeply troubled teen who had already considered suicide and who was taking an antidepressant medication that carried a warning of suicidal tendencies as a potential side effect. Authorities in Missouri investigated the circumstances surrounding Megan’s death in the months after it occurred but concluded there was no statute under which Drew could be charged.

Thomas P. O’Brien, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, claimed jurisdiction over the case based on the fact that MySpace is based in Beverly Hills.

--Scott Glover

The Times' Scott Glover will have a full report on the verdict soon.

Photo: Lori Drew, right, and her daughter Sarah Drew arrive at federal court today. Nick Ut / Associated Press.