Jury Selection Underway In MySpace Suicide Trial - InformationWeek

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11/19/2008
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Jury Selection Underway In MySpace Suicide Trial

Lori Drew is accused of posing online as a teenage boy in order to harass the victim.

Jury selection has begun in a high-profile trial against a mother who is accused of cyber-bullying a teen on MySpace until the girl killed herself.

Prosecutors say Lori Drew, 49, violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and MySpace's terms of use by posing on the service as a 16-year-old boy with a crush on Megan Meier. Drew used the online persona to taunt Meier to the point of suicide, according to court documents. Meier died in October, 2006.

Drew, who faces a total of 20 years in prison, pleaded not guilty to the charges and posted $20,000 bail.

The Los Angeles indictment marks the first time that a social networking site user has faced federal charges related to accessing computers for harassment.

Prosecutors said Drew posed as the fictitious Josh Evans and feigned romantic interest in Meier before turning on her. She posted a message saying that "the world would be a better place" without the 13-year-old girl. Meier hanged herself the next day.

MySpace prohibits people from using fraudulent registration information, using accounts to obtain personal information about juvenile members, and using the MySpace communication services to harass, abuse, or harm other members. It also prohibits promoting false or misleading information.

If convicted, Drew could face up to five years imprisonment for conspiracy and up to five years for each of three counts charging she accessed protected computers without authorization, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Central District of California.

Drew has been the victim of cyber-bullying herself since news of her alleged actions became public. Her defense attorney, Dean Steward, has questioned whether she can get a fair trial. He said that about 80% of potential jurors who completed questionnaires revealed that they have come to "devastating" conclusions about Drew. At least 40 more potential jurors are expected to fill out the questionnaires.

Drew is not on trial for accusations that she caused Meier's suicide, but jurors will hear evidence regarding the suicide to determine whether Drew harassed the teen and violated MySpace's terms.

The trial is in California as that's where MySpace's servers are located. Prosecutors consider the social networking site a victim in the case.

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