The Lori Drew Trial: Verdict

A verdict has been reached in the Lori Drew case. Kim Zetter reports:

Lori Drew, the 49-year-old woman charged in the first federal cyberbullying case, was cleared of felony computer-hacking charges by a jury Wednesday morning, but convicted of three misdemeanors. The jury deadlocked on a remaining felony charge of conspiracy.

After just over a day of deliberation, the six-man, six-woman jury acquitted Drew of three felony charges of violating the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, in an emotionally charged case that stemmed from a 2006 MySpace hoax targeting a 13-year-old girl, who later committed suicide.

Tina Meier, the mother of the girl, shook her head silently from the gallery as the verdict was read.

Prosecutors claimed Drew and others obtained unauthorized access to MySpace by creating a fake profile for a nonexistent 16-year-old boy named “Josh Evans.” The account was used to flirt with, and then reject, 13-year-old old Megan Meier. The case hinged on the government’s novel argument that violating MySpace’s terms of service for the purpose of harming another was the legal equivalent of computer hacking, and Drew faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison for each charge.

But on Wednesday, jurors found Drew guilty only of three counts of gaining unauthorized access to MySpace for the purpose of obtaining information on Megan Meier — misdemeanors that potentially carry up to a year in prison, but most likely will result in no time in custody. The jury unanimously rejected the three felony computer hacking charges that alleged the unauthorized access was part of a scheme to intentionally inflict emotional distress on Megan.

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7 Responses

  1. California mom says:

    This woman deserves punishment to the fullest extent of the law. Her actions were immoral, unethical, incomprehensible, emotionally abusive and led to the death of a child. I hope the public humiliation and hopefully jailtime and restitution (even though no amount will bring this family’s daughter back) will teach her and others a lesson. It makes me sick to think of such intentional cruelty aimed at a child. I wouldn’t treat an animal that way.

  2. tiff says:

    Her defense is stupid… You are required to click YES on the terms of use when you open a Myspace account. If she didn’t read it.. too bad, you’re still liable… Beyond that, she is an adult and she knowingly harrassed and tormented a very young impressionable girl.. So much so that it drove her to suicide. If she can’t understand that what she did was wrong then she is a text book Sociopath and needs extensive psychotherapy.

    If she had concerns about what this girl was saying to her daughter, then she should have made a report to Myspace Supervisors. Or not let her daughter participate on Myspace anymore… Its really that easy!!

  3. If ever there was a case that could stand as the model for prosecutorial excess it is this one. There is no criminal liability and no civil liability here. As the famous cartoon has it, “On the Internet No One Knows You’re a Dog”. The Internet is NOT Disneyland. If you wouldn’t let your child hang around downtown after midnight don’t let them have unsupervised Internet access. Lori Drew may be an unpleasant character and Megan Meier a very sympathetic one, but finding Drew guilty proves that hard cases make bad law.

  4. A.W. says:

    A voice of sanity…

    love the nick. you know, because it is INSANE to think that gee, maybe if you drive a teenage girl to suicide you should spend a few years in jail.

    As a lawyer, here is what I tell my clients (and the smart ones listen). If you think you shouldn’t get away with doing something, you probably can’t. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that you are doing something wrong that isn’t technically illegal.

    Lori Drew did something appalling and for anyone to say it is prosecutorial overreach to come after her for it, just hasn’t taken that lesson to heart.

    Which is not to say that i bemoan this verdict as unjust. she will have this on her criminal record for the rest of her life, and that will add up to a significant punishment over time. Every time she seeks a new job, they will learn about this conviction and she will have to choose between explaining that she is THE Lori Drew, or letting them think she is a hacker. either way, this will curtail her salary for the rest of her life. that is something. not my ideal, but not a gross miscarriage of justice, like we have seen recently.

  5. Aaron says:

    A.W., I have to respectfully disagree. As California Mom put it, her actions were “immoral, unethical, incomprehensible, emotionally abusive and led to the death of a child.” Therefore she should be prosecuted for being immoral, unethical, emotionally abusive, or held responsible for the death of a child. But the jury got this one right: Hacking is simply the wrong charge. Her crime was against a minor, not against MySpace.

    Imposing criminal liability for breaching a private contract would have been a dangerous precedent.

  6. I find it impossible to believe that ‘A.W.’ is a lawyer yet does not understand the difference between immoral and criminal acts. Your comments mark you as a member of the public who cries for someone to make happen what they want to happen irrespective of the law and its constitutionality. Have you actually READ the TOS for MySpace? Here is the penalty:

    MySpace reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to reject, refuse to post or remove any posting (including private messages) by you, or to deny, restrict, suspend, or terminate your access to all or any part of the MySpace Services at any time, for any or no reason, with or without prior notice or explanation, and without liability. MySpace expressly reserves the right to remove your profile and/or deny, restrict, suspend, or terminate your access to all or any part of the MySpace Services if MySpace determines, in its sole discretion, that you have violated this Agreement or pose a threat to MySpace and/or its Users and/or violating any applicable law.

    Drew is NOT liable for any penalty in excess of loss of account for misuse of MySpace. I do, however, believe that the prosecutor in this case should suffer a penalty for bringing this case – including disbarment for some period.

  7. concerned mom says:

    This woman should be held accountable! It happens more often than just this one case. She should be punished to the fullest extent. Please use her as an example of what will happen to you when you exploit another persons emotions,especially that of a child. Unknowlingly,
    my daughter was lied to and exploited by her then “best friend” posing as someone else on a myspace page. Luckily my daughter was self confident enough to tell her father and myself. I was savvy enough to figure out who it was, and called the girl on the carpet and she admitted to it. This girl’s parents never held her accountable. Just the opposite they excused her behavior as just being something that kids do. I will never forgive this child, I will never understand her parents denial and lack of caring in regards to another child’s emotions.
    The jury needs to wake up, how far do you let an adult who is suppose to know right from wrong deliberately plot out and execute the demise of a child’s mental well-being. Hopefully, the death of this child will linger in the mind of this woman for the remainder of her life, shame on her for toying with the life of an emotionally vulnerable child.