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.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien: Lori Drew decided to humiliate a child. November 28, 2008

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ABC Jury Convicts Mom of Lesser Charges in Online Hoax, 27 November 2008

“Lori Drew decided to humiliate a child. The only way she could harm this pretty little girl was with a computer. She chose to use a computer to hurt a little girl, and for four weeks she enjoyed it.” U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien, chief federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, during closing arguments.

MySpace: Lori Drew off the hook on conspiracy, convicted for computer fraud November 27, 2008

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New York Times, 27 November 2008

A federal jury here issued what legal experts said was the country’s first cyberbullying verdict Wednesday, convicting a Missouri woman of three misdemeanor charges of computer fraud for her involvement in creating a phony account on MySpace to trick a teenager, who later committed suicide.

The jury deadlocked on a fourth count of conspiracy against the woman, Lori Drew, 49, and the judge, George H. Wu of Federal District Court, declared a mistrial on that charge. (more)

Judge to Allow ‘S-word’ at MySpace Trial November 17, 2008

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Law Blog, 17 November 2008

Last week, the judge in the MySpace suicide case had some concerns over whether the suicide of a 13 year-old girl was relevant to the crime charged. On Friday, U.S. District Judge George Wu apparently got past those concerns. He ruled that prosecutors can use evidence of the suicide in its case against Lori Drew. The trial is set to begin tomorrow.

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Judge George Wu, Jan. 19, 2006, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Robert Gauthier)

According to the AP, at the Friday hearing, Drew’s lawyer, Dean Steward, argued the suicide evidence would lead jurors to focus on the death, rather than whether Drew violated the terms of service of MySpace. He added: “The jury is going to end up thinking that Lori Drew is being tried for the death of Megan Meier.” Rather than making a reasoned decision, he said, “this jury is just going to decide this by sympathy.”

The charge against Drew — that she violated the MySpace terms of service — incorporates an allegation that she did it with an intent to harm. So AUSA Mark Krause reportedly argued that Drew is charged with joining in a conspiracy to cause intentional infliction of emotional distress. “Showing that this victim took the ultimate step of taking her own life shows the level of her distress,” Krause said.

Judge Wu reportedly responded that he was convinced many prospective jurors would be aware of the suicide from reading news reports or seeing a recent episode of the TV show “Law and Order” that involved a similar scenario. He said he would instruct jurors that the case was not about the suicide and that Drew is not charged with causing the suicide.

In MySpace Suicide Case, Judge May Exclude Suicide from Trial November 11, 2008

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Wall Street Journal – Law Blog, 11 Nov 2008

n the case we’ve come to call the ‘MySpace suicide’ case, how important is the ’suicide’ part? It appears that U.S. District Judge George Wu believes it’s not critical, and is leaning toward excluding the evidence of how 13 year-old Megan Meier hanged herself.

“I don’t necessarily think the suicide is relevant to the crime charged,” Wu said, according to the AP, adding he thought details of Meier’s death would unfairly prejudice the jury. He said he planned to announce his final decision Friday. The trial is set to kick off next Tuesday.

(For past LB coverage of the case, click here.)

Exclusion of the suicide would, of course, be a setback to the government. It would also highlight the divergence between the facts and the law. As Dean Steward, the lawyer for defendant Lori Drew, told us last week, the trial will be in two parts: the legal side, such as what the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act means and whether it can be triggered by violating the MySpace terms of service; and the factual side, the tragic death of a 13 year-old girl and the question of who caused it.

In what strikes us as another interesting twist to the upcoming trial, Steward attempted to waive Drew’s right to a jury trial, but prosecutors refused to assent to the waiver, resulting automatically, according to the AP report, in a jury trial. The prosecutors’ refusal to accept the jury waiver likely came as a surprise to Steward. Last week, he told the Law Blog he suspected the prosecutors would not oppose the jury waiver for fear of offending Judge Wu.

Megan Meier: Supporters gather on what would have been girl’s 16th birthday November 8, 2008

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Suburban Journals, 8 Nov 2008

About 50 people gathered Thursday evening to remember Megan Meier, who would have been 16 Thursday.

She most certainly, according to her mother, would have wasted no time in trying to obtain her driver’s license.

“She had talked about getting a car from probably the time she was 12 years old,” said Tina Meier, Megan’s mother. “So today is a hard day. But every day has been hard without her.”

The gathering was at a Dardenne Prairie baseball field on Hanley Road. A photo slide show of Megan’s life played across a sheet fixed to the back of the backstop.

There she was: a toddler with her new baby sister, Allison; a little girl before the Christmas tree; a basketball player at the Boys & Girls Club of St. Charles; and an eighth-grade volleyball player at Immaculate Conception Elementary School.

At times, her image on the sheet seemed to come alive, rolling with the wind.

Megan was 13 when she took her life in October 2006, the victim of a MySpace hoax involving an adult neighbor, Lori Drew, a family friend who had lived four doors away in Dardenne Prairie.

Drew, 49, is scheduled to go to trial for her role in the incident in Los Angeles Nov. 18.

“There are people who are not like Megan – who would not take their own life,” said Tina, 38. “Some people can walk away from it. But there are many who can’t.”

Cassie Thomas, 16, of St. Peters, recalled her friendship with Megan. She last saw Megan two months before her death. They saw a movie together.

“She just meant so much to me,” Cassie said. “She was a lot like me.”

“I was a good friend of hers,” said Brittany Osborn, 16, of O’Fallon. “I’m here to remember her and honor her. She was loving and easy to get along with.”

Those in attendance lit candles. Butch Moore, a family friend, sang “Who You’d Be Today,” written by Kenny Chesney. Some signed what Tina has called “The Megan Pledge,” which states, in part:

“I agree not to use technology as a weapon to hurt others.”

“I agree to think before I click.”

“I agree to think about the person on the other side.”

The goal is 1 million pledges. So far, Tina said, there are 425,000.

People said they came to remember Megan, or to support Tina, or the Meiers, or to support Vicki Dunn, of St. Peters, Tina’s aunt.

“We’re here in honor of Megan Meier and to help reduce cyberbullying – if we can in some small way – and to support the family,” said Jeff Brooks, 43, of Dardenne Prairie. His daughter is a friend of Allison Meier, 12.

Megan Meier Case: Lori Drew loses motion for a bench trial November 6, 2008

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St. Louis Today, 6 Nov 2008

Lori Drew, accused of cyber-bullying a teen who later committed suicide, tried but failed Wednesday to get a federal criminal case against her heard by a judge instead of a jury.

Her lawyer, H. Dean Steward, said she waived her right to a jury trial but that prosecutors, whose agreement is required, refused.

St. Louis area prosecutors had said they found no charge applicable to the circumstances. But the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles obtained an indictment in May that charged Drew, formerly of Dardenne Prairie, with unlawfully accessing MySpace computers in the process of harassing her daughter’s rival down the street.

Steward also is trying to keep any mention of the 2006 suicide of Megan Meier, 13, out of the trial, which is set for Nov. 18.

Lori Drew’s lawyers seek to toss cyber-bully case October 22, 2008

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TradingMarkets.com, 21 Oct 2008

Lawyers representing Lori Drew, the mother who is accused of using the social networking site MySpace to help cyber-bully a teen who then killed herself, filed a motion Monday seeking to throw out the indictment against her.

Prosecutors said Drew and others schemed in 2006 to humiliate Megan Meier, 13, a neighbor in Dardenne Prairie, using a fake teenage boy’s identity on MySpace.

Megan was first a friend, then a “rival” of Drew’s daughter, prosecutors have said.

Federal and state prosecutors in the St. Louis area said they found no charge to apply against Drew, but the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, where MySpace is based, obtained indictments accusing her of one count of conspiracy and three counts of illegally accessing protected computers.

Prosecutors say Drew violated MySpace’s terms of service, which prohibit lying when registering, soliciting information from someone under 18 and harassing other users.

In the motion filed Monday, her attorneys argue that the government must do more than simply allege that the terms of service were violated.

“The fatal flaw in the government’s case is that MySpace knew perfectly well at all time exactly what it was doing,” the motion says. “MySpace knew that it was providing an account to users who might or might not comply with the Terms of Service. Most users violate Terms of Service frequently, as MySpace is surely aware.”

Drew’s attorneys also argue that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which Drew is accused of violating, should not be used to punish “everything bad that happens on the Internet.” They also contend the indictment should be tossed because no theft was committed and the law Drew is being charged under requires a theft, as well as that recent legislation implies the law does not apply when the defendant and victim are in the same state.

It was not clear late Monday when a judge could rule on the motion.

Lawyer: 2nd teenager may be linked to MySpace hoax October 16, 2008

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Huffington Post, 20 Oct 2008

The teenager who committed suicide after an Internet hoax was not the only girl exchanging messages with a fake MySpace address allegedly operated by a woman now charged in the girl’s death, the woman’s lawyer said.

Attorney Dean Steward filed a request in federal court for the phone records of a second teenage girl identified by the initials “S.D.”

His client, Lori Drew, of O’Fallon, Mo., is accused of helping to create a false-identity account on the social networking site, posing as a teenage boy and befriending her 13-year-old neighbor, Megan Meier.

Prosecutors say Megan hanged herself in 2006 after receiving messages from Drew on the fake account saying the world would be better off without her. Megan was being treated for attention deficit disorder and depression.

In his motion, Steward seeks the phone records to prove that prosecutors mistakenly linked Megan to a message that S.D. actually sent to the fake account.

Prosecutors have said the message _ listed in the Drew indictment as “Overt Act 9” _ was sent by Megan because she was induced by Drew to flirt with the fictitious boy.

Steward criticized the government for poor research and said S.D.’s e-mail address was on the message.

(more)

MySpace hoaxer let friends know about plot against late teen September 24, 2008

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The Smoking Gun, 23 September 2008

The Missouri woman charged with orchestrating a cruel online hoax that led to the suicide of a teenage girl was once so pleased with her prank that she shared details of the ongoing scheme with her hairdresser and other acquaintances, according to prosecutors. During conversations with several individuals, Lori Drew explained how she and others were “playing a joke on” Megan Meier, a 13-year-girl who was a rival of Drew’s daughter. That joke involved Drew’s creation of a MySpace page for a “Josh Evans,” a nonexistent boy who took an online liking to Meier, but then abruptly turned on the girl, telling her on October 16, 2006 that the world would be a better place without her. A distraught Meier committed suicide later that day. In May, Drew was named in a four-count federal indictment charging her with conspiracy and computer fraud in connection with the MySpace scheme. In a court filing yesterday, prosecutors revealed how Drew spoke of the hoax as it was underway, and “denied any untoward purpose and dismissed concerns over her ‘prank.” An excerpt of the September 22 document can be found below. While Drew appeared proud of her MySpace gambit while it was active, after Meier’s suicide she sought to cover her tracks and mask her involvement in the plot. When questioned by FBI agents, Drew said that while she knew of the MySpace hoax, she was not involved in the creation of the phony “Josh Evans” account. Additionally, when agents surreptitiously recorded a conversation between Drew and Meier’s mother, Drew “again disclaimed involvement in the scheme.” Drew, pictured above, is scheduled for trial next month in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Soulja goes to war over MySpace hack attack September 3, 2008

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Sydney Morning Herald, 2 September 2008

US rapper Soulja Boy has been targeted by cyber vandals who defaced his MySpace profile and published his email and YouTube passwords on the internet.

The hackers, reportedly part of the popular online community 4chan, contacted Soulja Boy demanding he hand over $US2500 in order to regain control over his account.

The rapper, who published tracks on the internet before becoming a mainstream star in September last year with the number one hit Crank That (Soulja Boy), refused.

His MySpace page was then wiped out and replaced with obscenity-laden messages where Soulja Boy purportedly declared his homosexuality and told fans to “go f— yourselves”.

The miscreants also published the rapper’s passwords – including to his email, souljaboytellem@mac.com – on the internet, and flooded his website’s online chatroom.

The saga ended when Soulja Boy’s record label, Interscope, contacted MySpace and demanded the account be returned.

His YouTube and email accounts have also been returned, Soulja Boy said in a recent YouTube video.

“Niggas sent me a message on MySpace saying I got your shit, send me $2500 if you want it back,” he says in the video.

“I texted back saying f— you, bitch, do what you do, the mother f—er got to be f—ed up. And then after that he deleted all my shit and I was like well darn the nigga wasn’t bluffin.”

Soulja Boy says in the video that he was going to offer a $US10,000 reward to anyone who revealed the hacker’s identity but this was unnecessary as he had already caught them.

“On the next video y’all stay tuned to see what we did with this hacker – we gotta make an example out of this shit.”

The video was published last week and since then Soulja Boy has published a number of other clips on YouTube, none of which mention the hacking saga.

The hack appears to be unrelated to a recent online feud with gangsta rap veteran Ice-T, who labelled Soulja Boy’s music garbage that was killing hip-hop. The comments started a war on YouTube and Souljah Boy responded with a cartoon that mocked Ice-T and his dancing.

Celebrities’ MySpace pages are regular targets for hackers looking to increase their notoriety or expose private photos and messages.

In 2007, a person wanting to impress a hacker group broke into the MySpace profiles of Justin Timberlake, Hilary Duff and MTV personality Tila Tequila. Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Miley Cyrus Alicia Keys and Nas have also had their profiles compromised in the past.

Anonymous – a threat to society and peace September 2, 2008

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Anonymous is a convenient facade for criminal activity on the Internet and in the real world. Behind that facade are people, some of whom literally, not just figuratively, hide behind masks as they vent their basest impulses while rationalizing that their anonymity frees them from responsibility for their acts.

Documentation for download (PDF)

Megan Meier: Attorney asks for medical records of dead girl August 21, 2008

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St. Louis Post – Dispatch, 20 August 2008

A lawyer for the woman accused of using the Internet to bully a Dardenne Prairie teen to the point of suicide has requested some of the girl’s medical records, claiming the girl was mentally ill and suggesting a change in her medication could have caused her death. (more of this disgusting story)

Government: Cyberbullying is a New Phenomenon, as is Social Networking August 14, 2008

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Law Blog, 13 August 2008

Last month, when H. Dean Steward, the lawyer for Lori Drew in the MySpace suicide case, filed his three motions to dismiss, he wrote: “If the government’s statutory construction is correct and the [Computer Fraud & Abuse Act] criminalizes violating a website [terms of service], then the statute is void for vagueness because it fails to provide warning of what is prohibited and ensures discriminatory enforcement . . .”

Yesterday, the government, represented by AUSA Mark Krause, shot back, filing three oppositions to the failure to state a claim motion, to the vagueness motion and to the unconstitutional delegation of prosecutorial power motion. (read full article)

MySpace suicide: Accused Lori Drew’s lawyer files documents challenging law July 23, 2008

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KTRS 550, 23 July 2008

Lori Drew’s attorney says the law being used to prosecute his client is flawed. H. Dean Steward represents Drew who is accused of using a fake identity on myspace to harass Megan Meier who later committed suicide. He filed 3 documents in Los Angeles federal court calling the law constitutionally vague and criminalizes something done by millions on-line daily. Steward also says prosecutors went too far to charge Drew with anything they could find.

More at St. Louis Post Dispatch

Florida Criminal Case: Efforts to rein in online fight videos July 23, 2008

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Christian Science Monitor, 22 July 2008

Pressure builds on social-networking websites to do more to block such content. Legislation is afoot, too.

The images played out in shocking detail this spring: a group of Florida teens beating a girl and videotaping it to allegedly post online at YouTube and MySpace. Some of them face felony charges and the possibility of life in prison. (more)