MySpace Mom Teen Suicide Conviction Overturned

Dennis Faas's picture

Is manipulating a teenager with obvious self-esteem issues to the point where they commit suicide tantamount to a criminal offence? Not so, it seems, given that a federal judge has overturned the misdemeanor guilty verdict handed down to Lori Drew last year.

Known as the "MySpace Mom," Lori Drew made headlines worldwide during the suicide investigation of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old who hung herself in Missouri a few years back.

Investigators soon uncovered a complex web of deceit that pointed back to Drew, who, angry with Meier for having picked on her daughter Sara, created a fictional MySpace teenager named "Josh Evans" that later befriended Megan.

Deceitful Prank Leads to Devastating Results

Drew and a fellow work employee, along with Drew's daughter, later said they hoped the ploy would help reveal Megan's abusive tendencies. It didn't quite turn out that way -- for whatever reason, the Drews used the fictional character to unleash a barrage of insults against Meier, who, crushed, took her own life by wrapping a noose about her neck in October 2006.

The tragic story and the investigation was big news throughout 2008 as Drew went to trial for her role in the suicide.

Protests against Lori Drew's conduct could be found anywhere and everywhere from online forums to local newspaper columns. Unfortunately for prosecutors, they struggled to find a charge for Drew -- that is, until California attorney Thomas O'Brien claimed that because MySpace servers were located in Los Angeles, he could prosecute Drew there. (Source:

Terms of Service Prosecution Raises Eyebrows

O'Brien used MySpace's terms of service to claim that Drew had created a fraudulent account. O'Brien was even allowed to upgrade the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony because of the seriousness of the case, although Drew was ultimately found guilty of the former.

The problem for many people, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) which actively defends Internet freedoms was that the conviction set a scary precedent. Many feared that the power of suggestion, used as it was online, could become grounds for future investigations and that there's no telling how that could become skewed by prosecutors.

A judge agreed with the EFF's concerns, finding that Drew did not violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. His full report on the decision is expected next week. The judge has not disagreed with the facts of the case, merely the interpretation of the crime -- under these circumstances, he has the power to overturn the conviction.

Drew was scheduled for sentencing next week, and would have received either probation or up to three years in prison. (Source:

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