The Missouri mother involved in an internet hoax that ended in a 13-year-old girl’s suicide was convicted of a three minor offenses by a Los Angeles jury Wednesday.
Lori Drew, 49, avoided three felony counts of accessing computers without authorization to inflict emotional harm and conspiracy, which could have brought her 20 years in prison.
Instead Drew is now facing up to a year in prison for each of the three charges on the unauthorized use of computers, and a $100,000 fine.
A juror told reporters that the six-men, six women jury was not convinced Drew’s actions were as intentional as prosecutors portrayed.
Drew is the woman who conspired with an 18-year-old to create a fictitious 16-year old boy “Josh Evans” on MySpace to send to 13-year-old Megan Meier to find out what she was saying about Drew’s daughter. The fictitious boy then dumped Megan and said the world would be a better place without her.
Megan killed herself by hanging herself with a belt in her closet. Prosecutors say that Drew knew Megan suffered from depression but wanted to humiliate her for saying mean things, making this the nation’s first cyberbullying trial.
Drew was not charged with causing Megan’s death, but with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act which usually applies to hacking and trademark violations.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a friends of the court brief on behalf of Drew citing that the charges were vague, could lead to censorship of the internet, and that any violation of terms of service agreements could be a federal crime.
Drew was also violating the MySpace user agreement that prohibits harassing other members. The case moved to Beverly Hills because MySpace is bases there.
Missouri has since created a law against cyber-harassment and similar federal legislation has been proposed.
Almost one-third of U.S. teens report someone has harassed or bullied them online. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, girls are more likely to be bullied – 38 percent compared to 26 percent of boys.
Among girls in the 15 to 17-year-old age group, the numbers jump to 41 percent. #