A surprising development in the tragedy of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide in a MySpace hoax. Lori Drew, the woman who pretended to be a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans, was indicted by a federal grand jury in California.
The Meier case has presented some difficult legal issues, as discussed here. Now, it appears that California prosecutors have decided to move the matter into the criminal system.
Drew was charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress on the girl. She could be looking at five years running concurrently.
Any conviction would raise serious appellate issues on the scope of such laws to cover this conduct. One concern would be the criminalization of conduct on the Internet and the danger of a chilling effect. People routinely assume different identities in chat rooms — part of the draw of these sites.
The prosecutors, for that reason, might be inclined to accept a plea with a small amount of jail time. It is certainly something that many defense lawyers would explore. This should prove a very interesting case. One question is likely to be why Missouri prosecutors — state and federal — indicated such inability to prosecute when prosecutors in California went ahead with a grand jury.
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