MySpace Suicide Case Goes To Jury - InformationWeek

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11/25/2008
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MySpace Suicide Case Goes To Jury

Lori Drew's online taunts allegedly caused a 13-year-old girl to kill herself.

A jury will decide whether a mother committed computer fraud when a group of Missouri residents created a fake MySpace account and sent messages to a 13-year-old who became distressed over the communications and killed herself.

Lawyers wrapped up closing arguments Tuesday in the Los Angeles trial. Forty-nine-year-old Missouri mother Lori Drew, 49, is accused of violating MySpace's terms of use by creating a fake account, pretending to be a 16-year-old boy, feigning interest in 13-year-old Megan Meier, then taunting her before the girl hung herself.

Drew's assistant, Ashley Grills, testified that Drew was involved in the plot and aware of the communications, which were hatched as part of a plan to catch Meier spreading rumors about Drew's daughter. Grills received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony. Drew's lawyer argued that Drew didn't send the e-mail messages and that she didn't commit crimes by violating MySpace's terms of use because nobody reads the terms. Drew's daughter testified this week and said that the mother didn't send the messages.

Drew isn't charged in Meier's death, but her lawyer said the trial appeared to center on the death, not Drew's computer use. Prosecutors said that Drew pretended to be a new boy in town, "Josh Evans," and feigned interest in Meier. Eventually, someone sent a message from "Evans" saying that the world would be a better place without Meier. The message brought Meier to tears shortly before she hanged herself.

Prosecutors claim Grills sent the message after telling Drew. Drew is the only person charged in the case. She faces four charges for conspiracy and accessing protected computers without authorization. She faces up to five years in prison for each count. The unprecedented trial is taking place in Los Angeles because that's where the MySpace computer servers are located.

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