A 49-year-old Missouri mother has been indicted for fraudulently using MySpace to "cyber-bully" a teenage girl who committed suicide after she was tricked into believing she was being dumped by her online boyfriend.
Lori Drew, of O'Fallon, Missouri, was named in a federal indictment charging her with three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization and one count of conspiracy. She faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. She has been summoned to appear in US District Court in Los Angeles in June.
The MySpace charade has drawn international ire since it was first reported that Drew posed as a 16-year-old boy on the social networking site and drew 13-year-old Megan Meier into a romantic relationship. After feigning interest in the girl for several weeks, Drew and several unnamed co-conspirators, abruptly broke off the relationship, telling her: "You’re a shitty person, and the world would be a better place without you in it."
Within hours, Meier hanged herself in her bedroom closet using a cloth belt her mother had just purchased from Old Navy, according to this article in The New Yorker.
According to news reports and television interviews, Drew set up the MySpace account after her daughter had a falling out with Meier. Drew allegedly used the account to find out if Meier was badmouthing her former friend online.
Drew has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, although in the past she has admitted to playing a role in the MySpace hoax. On Thursday, after the indictment was handed down, Drew's attorney told The Los Angeles Times he planned to vigorously fight the charges.
According to the indictment, Drew and the co-conspirators used MySpace to "torment, harass, humiliate, and embarrass the juvenile MySpace member." Posing as Josh early on in the online courtship, the faux boyfriend told Meier she was "sexi" and invited her to touch the "snake." Just hours after Meier killed herself, Drew and the co-conspirators deleted the fraudulent account and Drew instructed a juvenile who was aware of the scheme to "keep her mouth shut."
The indictment is notable because it comes after local police in Missouri declined to file charges because, they said, there were no statutes under which to pursue a criminal case. Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, in the district where MySpace is located, then began their own investigation.
Their charges hinge on the allegations that Drew violated MySpace terms of service that, among other things, require users to provide truthful and accurate registration information and forbid them from using information obtained from MySpace to harass, abuse or harm others, from soliciting personal information from people under 18 and from posting photos of others without their consent. ®