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Misdemeanor conviction in MySpace trial

November 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A Missouri mother has been convicted of 3 misdemeanor charges in the MySpace cyber-bullying case.The Los Angeles federal court jury on Wednesday rejected felony charges of accessing a computer without authorization to inflict emotional distress on young Megan Meier.

Lori Drew, 49, was convicted of three counts of the lesser offense of illegally accessing computers. Each count is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. But the six-man, six-woman panel could not reach a unanimous verdict on a single count of conspiracy.

The judge is also considering dismissing the case. The defense points to testimony that Drew never saw the MySpace user contract, which forbids using fake profiles.

A decision on the dismissal can come after a verdict has been reached.

Drew's attorney says prosecutors have no evidence to support any criminal charges.

On Monday, Sarah Drew, the teenage daughter of the defendant, took the stand. She reportedly knew all about the hoax, and the judge on Monday morning hinted that she may be in trouble, too.

Sarah, 13, was involved in 50 percent of the messages, according to testimony. The judge asked whether the teenager should get an attorney, but the defense said they didn't think she needed one.

Prosecutors faced a setback when Drew's employee, 20-year-old Ashley Grills, testified that she was the one who was at the computer and set up the account. Furthermore, Grills said it was her idea to carry out the deception.

Grills testified under a grant of immunity.

However, prosecutors argue that Drew does not have to be the instigator to be found guilty.

The case could set a legal precedent for dealing with online harassment.

The defense argues that she was not the one who set up the fake MySpace account, and that she never read any terms of service involved in the contract.

Grills testified that she clicked through all the contract language that pops up when you set up an account. She said she did not read it, but she had reservations about the plot.

Grils also testified that Drew actively participated in sending the cruel messages and thought the whole idea of the hoax was funny.

Drew said she never read the terms of agreement either, but she reportedly told Grills that 'people do it all the time' about creating a fake profile.


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