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MySpace Suicide: Defendant Thought Hoax Was 'Funny'

Court prepares to wrap up first week's testimony in the controversial case.
The MySpace suicide trial was expected to continue Friday in Los Angeles following two days of testimony in which a woman accused of cyberbullying her daughter's 13-year-old rival to the point of suicide was portrayed by the state as a vindictive mother and by her attorney as the victim of prosecutorial zeal.

On Thursday, an employee of defendant Lori Drew testified that Drew was involved in a plot to set up a fake MySpace page that was used to taunt Megan Meier, who hanged herself in October 2006. Drew allegedly adopted the online persona of a fictitious teenage boy who at first told Meier he had a crush on her but whose messages later turned to insults.

Drew's assistant, Ashley Grills, told the court that Drew said that fabricating an Internet account "was fine and people do it all the time," according to the Los Angeles Times. Of the scheme, Grills said Drew "thought it was funny."

Drew's lawyer painted a different picture in court Wednesday. H. Dean Steward told jurors that Drew did not participate in the hoax, which reportedly brought Megan Meier to tears before she killed herself.

Steward said the real culprit was Grills, who was 18 at the time and has been granted immunity in exchange for her testimony. "The message that (prosecutors) talked about was sent when Lori Drew was on the road and not at home," Steward argued, according to Reuters.

Grills has claimed that Drew helped hatch the plot to set up a fake MySpace account and pretend to be "Josh Evans," a new 16-year-old boy in town with a crush on Meier. She said that she, Drew, Drew's daughter, and others sent messages to Meier. The hoax reportedly began as a way to catch Meier spreading rumors about Drew's daughter, so a group of teens could confront Meier.

Drew is the only person to be charged in the case. The judge told jurors that the suicide could be presented as evidence but stressed that Drew is not on trial for Meier's death. Rather, prosecutors charged her with computer fraud and abuse. They said she violated the terms and conditions of MySpace and set up the fake account to inflict emotional pain on Meier.

If convicted on all charges of conspiracy and accessing protected computers without authorization, Drew faces up to five years in prison for each of four counts.

Grills admitted Thursday that she eventually sent Meier a message from "Josh Evans" saying the world would be better off without her in an attempt to end the hoax. Meier hanged herself shortly after receiving that message. Her mother found her and she died the next day. Prosecutors said Wednesday that Grills told Drew about the last message before sending it, according to Reuters.

The victim's mother also testified this week. Tina Meier said in court, and in public appearances, that Drew was aware that her daughter had battled depression and bullying and took antidepressants.

The unprecedented trial is taking place in Los Angeles because that's where the MySpace computer servers are located.