Judge temporarily dismisses MySpace cyberbully case

Lori Drew, 50, is a free woman after a judge ruled in her favor

A U.S. judge on Friday overruled a jury verdict and dismissed a case against a Missouri woman convicted last November in a cyberbullying case that led to a teenager's death.

U.S. District Court Judge George Wu granted a defense motion for a directed acquittal of Lori Drew, 50, who was convicted last November on three misdemeanor counts of unauthorized computer access.

After reviewing transcripts of the case, Wu overturned the jury's verdict, saying that if Drew were found guilty then anyone who violated MySpace's terms of service could also be found guilty of a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors had argued during the trial that violating the terms of service of the social-networking site in order to harm someone else was the legal equivalent of hacking a computer.

A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California last November convicted Drew on charges related to taking on a false MySpace identity and taunting a 13-year-old neighbor, Megan Meier, who ultimately hanged herself. Wu was scheduled to sentence Drew on Friday.

Drew was convicted on three counts of illegally accessing a computer system by creating a MySpace account under an assumed name. The jury acquitted her on felony charges and a count of conspiracy.

She was accused of setting up a MySpace account along with two other people using the name of "Josh Evans," who was supposedly a teenage boy, for the purpose of luring Meier into an online relationship in 2006.

Drew and the others sought to get Meier to discuss Drew's daughter online with the fictitious boy. After a month of flirting, "Josh" ended the relationship on Oct. 16, 2006, with Meier, and one of the three who created the persona told the teenager that the world would be better off without her.

Meier hanged herself the next day in her family's home in a St. Louis suburb. The Drews lived on the same block.

Prosecutors in Missouri investigated the matter, but found that Drew had not violated any state laws. However, the case was pursued by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, which indicted Drew for accessing MySpace servers illegally. MySpace is based in Beverly Hills, California, so the case was heard there.

The case has drawn a lot of attention, as well as criticism from groups and legal scholars who contended that the government was misinterpreting the U.S. antihacking law to prosecute Drew.

Nonprofit organizations including the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with some individuals, in August filed an amicus brief arguing that the court should dismiss charges against Drew because the MySpace terms-of-service violations do not constitute crimes under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which bars unauthorized access to a computer.

"Regardless of whether Drew could be held criminally liable under a different theory, EFF argued that the theory pursued by prosecutors was inappropriate," wrote EFF senior staff attorney Matt Zimmerman in a blog entry.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags legalMySpacecyberbullying

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?