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back to article Judge acquits mother in MySpace suicide case

A federal judge has officially acquitted Lori Drew, the Missouri mother accused of using MySpace to bully a 13-year-old neighbor girl who later committed suicide. In July, US District Judge George Wu in Los Angeles had tentatively overturned three misdemeanor counts against Drew of illegally accessing computers without …

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Well it's over now.

Good they made the right judgement on the charge of hacking and whatnot, bad and slightly weird that of all the crimes involved with a balance of power between individuals they would use breaking a ToS agreement to prosecute with.

More the prosecutions fault then anyone else. Sad.

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WTF?

WTF where the prosecutors thinking?

Seriously, WTF?

Destroying a childs mental health, to the point that they kill themselves.. and the procs can only come up with a ToS violation?

The Judge is right in this case, but the morals of any previous judgements, on the same case, have to be in question.. (I'll have to start reading back on this case.. considering I know nothing about US law, that might take a while).

I do, vaguely, recall something about this case, but not why its' got to such a low level of prosecution.

I have a young daughter. If I was this poor girls dad, I'd happily spend the rest of my days inside, after gutting all the cunts.

You might accecpt it from other children, who 'might' not know any better... but from other adults suggests more than just 'bullying'.

Cunts.

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right decision even for evil person

The courts did the unthinkable and actually sided with reason for once. That said that fat ugly suburban cheerleading mom psycho should suffer for this the rest of her life (I guess community justice has not been real kind to her as it is). Sad all around.

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Good but bad

It's good that the judge showed a bit of common sense, but a kid still died because of another persons actions, shouldn't they at least be tried for culpable homicide? If it wasn't for the actions of one sick person that kid would not have hung themselves, there is a clear cause and effect here, that bitch is basically getting away with murder.

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Parents?

Where were the parents of the 13 year old in all this? My kid didn't have private access to the online world until she was 17 years old and at University ... and THAT was in 1990, before TheGreatUnwashed[tm] had general access! It only stands to reason that if you have a random chunk of humanity capable of communicating via a given medium, "bad people" will be included in that random sample!

Folks, if you take nothing else from this sad case, MONITOR YOUR CHILDREN'S ONLINE ACTIVITIES! I mean, seriously, you wouldn't let 'em wander around Times Square in NY, The Tenderloin in San Francisco, or the docks in London or Liverpool after dark, would you?

THAT said, the bitch that perpetrated this needs to do time. Thankfully I didn't have to make such a choice, but I don't *think* that I would have gone quite as far as AC23:25 suggests ... There has to be something in case law to cover this. IANAL.

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WTF?

This doesnt make sense...

Is bullying a child to the extent that they commit suicide not illegal in the USA then? What are they playing at? If the police have to resort to charging her with something stupid like 'violating website T&Cs' then there is something seriously wrong in the law. Can't they charge her with 'child (emotional) abuse' or similar?

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It's obvious really

Having read the leaked chat logs on this case, it's evident what was going on here. Lori Drew was online pretending to be Megan Meier's BOYFRIEND, for chrissake! Some of the chat was distinctly sexual. So what we have here is a plain and simple case of an adult engaging in sexual talk with a minor. In law, that is known as GROOMING; it's what PAEDOPHILES do. So why were the lawyers scrabbling around for something to charge her with? Why was this woman not charged under the grooming/paedophilia laws, stuck on the SOR and put away for 25-life? If she'd been male, she would have been.

Is this world so fucked up on feminism that nobody could make the connection that a woman might indeed be a paedophile? Or is it so ingrained in the popular view that most people think that only men are paedophiles? People really need to wake up!

(Sorry, Sarah, I had to let that one rip!)

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Anonymous Coward

Two points.

Firstly, does this ruling mean that there is now a president set for being able to ignore the t&c's of any site on the web (or just sites hosted in the us)?

And secondly, I relay hope the guys at 4chan don't here about this! Really, It would be terrible if this woman were to be tormented in the same way by people who know how to do it even better than she, hint hint hint.. I'm just saying, community justice and all.

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Double Standards

So we have a middle-aged woman pretending to be a young boy to entrap a (barely) teenage girl, and she gets a slap on the wrist.

Ask yourself this: if it had been a middle-aged *man*, how long before the "predator" tag got used and the man jailed as a paedophile?

This is akin to someone using a tire-iron to break into a house and the judge saying that the break-and-enter is simply a "misuse of the instrument counter to the stated instructions".

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Anonymous Coward

suddenoutbreakofcommonsense

of course the psychobitchneighbor will have to live not only with herself but with the knowledge that everyone knows what she did.

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right choice

Good. Did we really want an ever-changing EULA controlled by psychotic companies to be a standard from which criminal charges are possible? Hell no!

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Common sense, though not justice, prevails.

If there was no law applicable to the type of harassment that Lori Drew carried out, too bad. Creating a stupid law or precedent would not have brought the victim back.

Lori Drew will rightly be remembered for, as an adult, willfully persecuting an innocent teen to the point where she committed suicide. One thing that should definitely not be granted to Lori is the opportunity to change her name at any time.

Our societies have long had to deal with harassment. This is not a new theme. Treating things differently just because the act was carried out on a computer makes little sense. And prosecution for violating ToS? Please. What would the penalty be? 3 months community service? I do wonder why common bullying/harassment statutes were not applicable, but it seems to me the US has more than enough laws to justify imprisoning its citizens already.

Besides, the value of deterrence is, hopefully, limited. How many people really would follow Lori's footsteps? And would a knee-jerk law really influence their choices?

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really?

"Destroying a childs mental health, to the point that they kill themselves.. and the procs can only come up with a ToS violation?"

I say that anyone who hangs themselves over a facebook message or two is already unbalanced, and if it wasn't this, then it would have been something else later on. I don't blame the woman for the killing.

That said, the mom's actions were hardly sensible, but the girl's reaction couldn't have been foreseen, unless the mother knew of her obvious mental instability.

This judgment is a ray of sanity in an otherwise insane (legal) world.

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Alert

A nasty Mom and a

correct legal decision.

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From what I recall...

From what I remember at the moment, the prosecution couldn't come up with any crime on the books that would actually stand a chance of sticking... This of course led to a flurry of outraged statements from lawmakers pledging to do something about it, I suspect there are probably several rather draconian bills floating around with bits that say that misrepresenting yourself online is a terrorist act deserving of time at whatever detainment camp is handy.

Ultimately while I disagree with what the woman did, it's the legal equivalent of walking up to someone on the street whilst in disguise and sitting down next to a person day after day and having a nice chat with them, and then one day repeatedly telling them how worthless and useless they are... annoying as hell, but not actually illegal what with that whole freedom of speech thing. She wasn't attempting to steal from the girl, or trick her into using her access to gain anything for the woman, there was no risk to the public, she was just being evil.

If it was illegal to mess with peoples minds then we'd have a heck of a lot of marketers in jail right now.

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Thank goodness for the right decision

But the nutty mother is not going to get away with this, even if it just ends up her being hounded by the US equivalent of the red tops, surely?

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Anonymous Coward

What if Josh had been real?

What if Josh had been a typical ass hole teenage boy who had jilted her and she committed suicide? What if Josh had been real? Would it be any less tragic?

Face it, this is tragic but not hacking. Grooming? No chance because no chance of future sex. Bullying? Nope, if Josh had been real then it would have been jilting, no bullying, there's no threat of violence there, just a broken heart.

The trouble will all this, is the charge was 'hacking' so the full details were not released, but reading the background suggests that it was the straw that broke the camels back. Clinical depression? Psychiatrists? She was one heartbreak away from suicide.

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FAIL

The Way It Is

Albeit the woman is a totally reprehensible, subhuman piece of trash, in the end we are all responsible for our own lives and our own decisions. The child needed help and should have gotten it years ago. The parents, who were likely no more than idle bystanders, must carry a huge portion of that burden and they will never escape their guilt.

If human nature is what I think it is, this woman has escaped nothing. She has to live with herself and more than likely that will be the only person who has anything to do with her for the rest of her miserable life. Which is as it should be; society has a way of punishing people in the most appropriate ways.

Once the media flash passesm as it always does, daily life for her is going to be horrendous. As well it should be.

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@Owen Milton

In general, I tend to agree with you; that said, I think there is an issue with regard to the freedom of speech thing and the distinction between speech as opinion/expression and speech as conduct. I would say that while this evil woman's conduct is not the same as the oft-quoted example of yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre, to a certain extent it is more pernicious than that. She deliberately targeted a young girl, intentionally groomed her, creating an emotional reliance upon the fictional character that she had created, and then used that reliance to give force to the assertion that the world would be better off if she (Meier) were dead. That isn't opinion or expression, that is speech designed to engineer an effect, that is to say to create the belief on the part of this girl that she should die. It is pointless to argue that she "should have known better", or "she must have already been unbalanced" - she was a 13 year old kid; they frequently DON'T know better, and "unbalanced" is pretty normal. Drew knew who she was victimising and either intended to cause that harm or was deliberately and callously indifferent to whether that harm was caused. I would argue that such speech crosses the boundary and is clearly "speech as conduct"; I don't believe that such speech should be defended as "free speech". Perhaps there "was no risk to the public" at large, but there was a foreseeable risk to Megan Meier, and one that Drew created and nurtured.

Perhaps there is no law that covers her actions and we should all be careful of hard cases making bad laws, but that isn't to say that there should never be legislation to protect children and other vulnerable people from scum like Drew. It is arguable that there should be, but that it should be extremely carefully drafted.

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FAIL

Despicable

@ AC "Really?"

To a degree, true, but puberty is the point in most people's lives when they are most vulnerable and impressionable.

Lori Drew may be seen as responsible, but not accountable on the face of it, but her actions were not a one off. She embarked in a campaign of hatred against a 13-year old girl, with the sole intention of causing grief or distress. Whether or not the poor victim died, Drew must be held accountable for utterly despicable behaviour and be made to pay to the fullest extent of the law.

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Stop

"one of the participants turned against Meier"

"Eventually, one of the participants turned against Meier, telling her through "Josh" that the world would be a better place without her."

Which one? Perhaps not Lori Drew.

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Anonymous Coward

@speech designed to engineer an effect

"That isn't opinion or expression, that is speech designed to engineer an effect, that is to say to create the belief on the part of this girl that she should die"

Have you ever said "I wish you were dead"? Have you ever meant it for real? Do you think you should go to prison for saying it?

"It is pointless to argue that she "should have known better", or "she must have already been unbalanced" - she was a 13 year old kid; they frequently DON'T know better, and "unbalanced" is pretty normal."

She was seeing a psychiatrist, and was clinically depressed. This is not normal. If every 13 years killed themselves on their first broken heart there would be no 14 year olds.

"I don't believe that such speech should be defended as "free speech""

Read this, it is a dramatic reading of a breakup letter.

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/08/29/dramatic-reading-of.html

I believe that free speech should not be thrown out on an emotional argument.

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Anonymous Coward

Pretty one sided

There's a lot of bias here against the mother. Given that we know little of the whole story this seems a little unreasonable.

Perhaps there is a considerable back story - perhaps the kid she had a go at had been harrassing her own? Just like the 'innocent' chap stabbed on oxford st outside macdonalds... history we don't know about.

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Reasonable law, but ...

This seems a sensible judgement, especially given the USA attitude to enforcing the law in all circumstances just because it's the law.

But what these people did was horrible, and it ought to be possible to charge them with something. I know very little about USA law beyond the TV dramas, but wasn't what happened "reckess endangerment" of their victim, or "depraved indifference" to her suffering?

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The Law is an Ass

The law itself covers two things, just in its title: 'Hacking' & 'Computer Abuse'

The latter is clearly intended to cover situations where no technical abuse of the system occurred, so the Judge is incorrect. His little scenarios merely high-light that the law is dangerously vague, (and that online Ts&Cs are ridiculous) not that a crime did not occur.

This woman's intent was malicious from the start, and she should count herself very lucky that she isn't going to be locked up; if this had happened in any other media, say via old-fashioned snail mail, I am fairly sure she would be inside right now.

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Coat

Thanks for clearing that up, Judge.

It's good to know that anyone taking action against this revolting witch won't be prosecuted, providing the same methodology is used.

I mean, who would create a range of social networking profiles in the name of the victim and then use them to haunt this vile woman until she committed suicide out of guilt for what she had done. Surely no one would want to do that. Would they?

Surely there won't be lots of people wanting to do just that?

Surely there aren't lots of competant, IT literate and net-savvy people able to obtain phone numbers, addresses, email accounts and so forth belonging to this stain on humanity? The kind of people who have a deep seated sense of natural justice and are prepared to deliver it 'anonymously'?

lets hope, for the sake of the newly cleared clearly guilty party that the hunt has not begun already, eh?

Mines the one with the mask in the pocket.

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Stop

'Ang on 'Ang on 'Ang on

Seeing's I am not a Yank an' all, ain't this ruling wots reported _just_ got to do with the TOS wotsits?

They've just gone an' got rid of the pissy tecchie bits.

Surely them Yanks _must_ now be aiming to nick 'er on somin' else bigger ?

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Megaphone

Unsure

Why wasn't she charged with hatecrime designed to cause emotional pain and real death.

Laws are weird, people come up with cause and effect then other people try and come up with clever prose to describe it. This leads to the problem where you do something that hasn't been described.

I'd agree with it being the right decision, in my opinion the prosecutors failed epicly. I still can't get away from the fact a girl died after this online pyschological attack and that her attacker faces no legal prosecution. Where the law fails you find vigilantiism, surely not a scenario the law wants.

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WTF?

Am i reading this right?

Common sense prevailing??

'Tis about time T&Cs' like this were ruled unenforcable.

However, the "bullies" should serve a stretch a nice hard labour prison for a perod of, ohh not less than 10 years. With parole eligibility after 9 years and 364 days. Vicous twats..

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the original case...

was barking up the wrong tree. They should have never tried to nail her on TOS violations. It should have been criminal harassment and child abuse through an electronic medium. I agree with other comments about the possible vigilante turnout now. I know I'd be one to picket the woman's home (from the street mind you... no way I'd be caught on a trespassing charge) with a sign like "Child Abuse IS a crime" and "Child Abuser Lives HERE" and "Is your child next?"

I'd leave the vigilante stuff to others.

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CHP

Criminal vs. Civil Suit

The criminal trial has found her innocent but the family of the girl can still file a civil suit against the people who set up the fake Facebook page. If found guilty, the trio could be held liable for financial penalties. This would be similar to O.J. Simpson being acquitted on the murder charges but found guilty in the subsequent civil case.

It's not the same as jail time but at least it's something.

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Bah!

[4 jake] Oh jake, for Azathoth's sake grow up! Did you stay where your parents could see you and did you constrain yourself to their approved behaviour when you were out of their sight?

This DINK argument really needs to be retired from libertarian rhetoric. It is so lame a 12 year old could poke holes in it without breaking a sweat.

Only an idiot would assume that kids are extensions of their parents' authority, even if their own childhood reflected that.

Did yours? Mine didn't and I was a total pussycat compared to just about everyone else I knew.

Where were the parents? Probably at work some of the time. Perhaps at more than one job.

Wuckfit.

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What a legal mess...

@Steve Roper, I totally agree. The legal team seem to have tunnel vision so bad they are incapable of seeing beyond Internet specific law to find ways to charge her. This woman has systematically set out to cause psychological harm to a child. If that isn't a reason to lock her up for the protection of others, then what the hell kind of place is America.

If they can't get her for Grooming, then try her for Psychological Abuse (sometimes called Mental Assault), and if that also fails, then try to have her sectioned under mental health laws, for the protection of others. If all this fails then the US has to sort out its whole messy protection of mental health, which I suspect is an additional problem in this legal case. They need better overall protection of mental health in all walks of life not just online.

The US needs to take this case very seriously. This evil woman has proven she is a danger to others and she isn't alone, there are others like her all around the world. Mental assault is extremely serious. Its not simply harassment or harsh words. Its systematic undermining of others to destroy their self worth. That shows someone intentionally and systematically bring others down so they can feel better about themselves. That points to someone with a serious cluster B personality disorder.

Its an extremely difficult experience for even any adult to deal with prolonged manipulation and abuse from someone with a serious personality disorder let alone children who wouldn't have a hope of coping with that level of psychological abuse. Even then most adults would only partly deal with someone this bad by getting away from them rather than understanding why that person behaved so badly towards them and the memory (and memory of suffering) would often last most people a lifetime. A child wouldn't stand a chance against someone this bad. (For this reason I don't believe the Internet is really a safe place for children. We wouldn't let them roam freely down every dark back alleyway in some other distant city, yet some parents let their children roam virtually all over the world almost anywhere they wish to go without any supervision).

One additional legal solution maybe if she has systematically treated others online like she treated this child, (which is very likely) then they could use that additional evidence to show she was a serious danger to others especially children. That would show her at the level of an attempted serial killer targeting children trying to drive children to suicide. Then finally they could lock her up.

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@Stevie

"Oh jake, for Azathoth's sake grow up!"

Says the gent naming himself in the diminutive & invoking a fictional deity.

"Did you stay where your parents could see you and did you constrain yourself to their approved behaviour when you were out of their sight?"

No. That's my point. Regardless of any other ways a kid can get into trouble, home internet access IS controllable, and should be controlled.

"This DINK argument really needs to be retired from libertarian rhetoric."

DINK? Semi-retired. Married, kid's done with college. Not libertarian, either.

"It is so lame a 12 year old could poke holes in it without breaking a sweat."

Were you planning on starting to poke holes in it any time soon, or are you just braying?

"Only an idiot would assume that kids are extensions of their parents' authority, even if their own childhood reflected that."

On the other hand, a parent is responsible for what their children do until the child reaches the age of consent. If you, li'l Stevie, ever get past puberty and have kids of your own, this cold harsh reality is going to present itself in a hurry.

"Did yours?"

No. But I was a bit of a rebellious kid ... Palo Alto in the '60s and '70s was an interesting place for someone interested in how things work to grow up.

"Mine didn't and I was a total pussycat compared to just about everyone else I knew."

::shrugs:: No concern of mine.

"Where were the parents? Probably at work some of the time. Perhaps at more than one job."

Has nothing to do with monitoring computer access for a 13 year old.

"Wuckfit."

That's pronounced "fuckwit", but if it makes you feel better to camouflage your ad hominem proof of your lack of decent argument, feel free. Says more about you than it does about me.

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Unhappy

Meh

Was going to comment earlier, but wanted to find out more about the story, it just seems utterly sad, and a waste of a young life - and whilst Lori Drew might be a manipulative conniving bitch, was she evil? her daughter and another girl (18) were also involved. It's easy to toss the word around...

Gotten from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Megan_Meier so face value really.

>From the third grade Megan had been under the care of a psychiatrist. She had been prescribed Citalopram, Methylphenidate and Ziprasidone.[15] She had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and depression and considered herself overweight.<

Basically, an antidepressant, Ritalin and an antipsychotic for four years (3rd to seventh grade? don't know American years) and possibly neighbours would be unaware of her emotional state, it's not really something you discuss over a BBQ.

>Jack Banas, the prosecuting attorney of St. Charles County, said that Lori Drew's 18-year-old temporary employee, Ashley Grills, wrote most of the messages addressed to Meier and that she wrote the final "Josh Evans" message addressed to Meier.<

Final message from a fictitious 16 year old boy she had never met or even spoken to...

>"Everybody in O'Fallon knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you." Meier responded with a message reading “You’re the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.”<

And I've seen messages on this very board opining that certain people should go die (usually between Macs and Wintards comments), so, before you throw the first stone etc etc etc...

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great day for the rule of law

The correct decision was rendered.

It is sad that we didn't have something on the books that could be used to prosecute an insecure mother for pushing another girl to suicide by impersonating a hopeful suitor and then bashing her. She must have some severe mental issues to believe that was proper behaviour.

While she cannot be "made an example of," she does shine a light on one of the dangers of the anonymity behind which a deranged personality may hide. I can only hope it will cause more people to think twice before believing that profile or email before getting emotionally involved.

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