Mom indicted in deadly MySpace hoax
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- A federal grand jury indicted a Missouri woman Thursday for her alleged role in perpetrating a hoax on the online social network MySpace against a 13-year-old neighbor who committed suicide.
Lori Drew of suburban St. Louis is said to have helped create a false-identity MySpace account to contact Megan Meier, who thought she was chatting with a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. Josh didn't exist.
Megan hanged herself at home in October 2006 after receiving cruel messages, including one stating the world would be better off without her.
Salvador Hernandez, assistant agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office, called the case heart-rending.
"The Internet is a world unto itself. People must know how far they can go before they must stop. They exploited a young girl's weaknesses," Hernandez said. "Whether the defendant could have foreseen the results, she's responsible for her actions."
Drew was charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to get information used to inflict emotional distress on the girl.
Drew has denied creating the account or sending messages to Megan.
U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said this was the first time the federal statute on accessing protected computers has been used in a social-networking case. It has been used in the past to address hacking.
"This was a tragedy that did not have to happen," O'Brien said.
Both the girl and MySpace are named as victims in the case, he said.
MySpace is a subsidiary of Beverly Hills, California-based Fox Interactive Media Inc., which is owned by News Corp. The indictment noted that MySpace computer servers are located in Los Angeles County.
Due to juvenile privacy rules, the U.S. attorney's office said, the indictment refers to the girl as M.T.M.
FBI agents in St. Louis and Los Angeles investigated the case, Hernandez said.
Each of the four counts carries a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison.
Drew will be arraigned in St. Louis and then moved to Los Angeles for trial.
I don't really know how I feel about this case anymore. I agree that the mom was a douche and should have faced scorn but I just don't know if I believe there should be criminal charges. It's not exactly her fault that the girl was an unbalanced nutjob exactly. It'd be different if she had handed her the rope but I'm not sure it's exactly foreseeable that she would off herself.
The other aspect of this case that bothers me is the new information that's come out since that shows that it was Drew's 19 year old employee who actually created the account and also issued the fateful 'the world would be better off without you' message that is believed to have precipitated the suicide. I'm sure she was acting, at least to some degree, at Lori Drew's behest, but there's no reason she should have escaped being charged as well. With that information out there and the lack of other indictments, it just makes this look like a witch hunt. I'm also not sure that it bodes well to have this case as a precedent either.