The Lori Drew Trial
Originally posted in Wired, November 26, 2008
LOS ANGELES — 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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*Photo: Lori Drew and her daughter, Sarah, outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Los Angeles/AP