Lori Drew, the mother at the center of a cyberbullying case linked to the suicide of a 13-year-old girl, was convicted in Los Angeles of three misdemeanor counts of accessing a computer without authorization on Wednesday (November 26). The jury in Los Angeles federal court declined to convict Drew on more serious felony charges of accessing a computer without authorization to inflict emotional distress, according to an Associated Press report.
Prosecutors said Drew, 49, violated the terms of service of MySpace by working with her daughter and a business assistant to create a fictitious profile of a teenage boy on the site, which they then were alleged to have used to harass 13-year-old Megan Meier.
The young girl, a former friend of Drew's daughter, hanged herself in 2006 after behind rejected by the fictitious boy, "Josh Evans," who wrote that the world would be better without her. The Missouri mother was originally charged with one count of conspiracy in addition to the three computer-related counts, but the AP reported that the jurors — after deliberating for just over one day — could not reach a verdict on the conspiracy matter.
Wired reported that the Drew case
was the first federal cyberbullying case to be brought to trial under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
The magazine's Web site reported that Meier's mother shook her head silently from the gallery as the verdict was read. The case was based on the novel argument that violating MySpace's terms of service agreement to harm someone else was the legal equivalent of computer hacking; Drew faced a maximum of five years in prison for each charge.
Drew faces up to a year in prison for the misdemeanor convictions, but will most likely not serve jail time.