Friday, May 16, 2008

Were Lori Drew and Ashley Grills "So Much Crueler On MySpace?" -scoop by Ms. Calabaza Update 7-13-09

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has indicted Lori Drew, a Missouri woman, for allegedly perpetrating an online hoax on MySpace which was allegedly targeted against a 13-year-old. Megan Meier, the 13 year old, subsequently committed suicide.Megan Meier apparently thought she was chatting with a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. But Josh didn't exist. A mythical identity known as Josh sent cruel messages to Megan.Megan hanged herself in October 2006 after receiving several cruel messages, including one stating the world would be better off without her.

Salvador Hernandez, assistant agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office, claims that "Whether the defendant could have foreseen the results, she's responsible for her actions."Drew was charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to get information used to inflict emotional distress on the girl.Drew has denied creating the account or sending messages to Megan.Both MySpace and Megan are named as victims.Each count carries a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison. Drew will be arraigned in St. Louis but the trial will be in Los Angeles.

Last month Ashley Grills, an employee of Drew, told ABC's "Good Morning America" she created the false MySpace profile but Drew wrote some of the messages to Megan. Drew allegedly suggested talking to Megan via the Internet to fdetermine what Megan was saying about Drew's daughter. Grills apparently wrote the message to Megan about the world being a better place without her with the intent of ending the online relationship with "Josh" because Grills felt the joke had gone far enough. Megan's death was investigated by Missouri authorities, but no state charges were filed.

Drew denies that she has done anything wrong. Legal Pub warns that all suspects are presumed innocent until otherwise proven in a court of law.

Update 3-17-09: Drew was aquitted of all felony charges. Her attorneys will seek a re-trial on the three misdemeanor counts if U.S. District Judge George Wu does not overturn the juries decision on the midemeanors. If the verdict stands, Drew's lawyers will appeal to the 9th Circuit Court arguing that prosecutors misused the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to criminally charge for breach of contract, which typically is a civil matter.

Update 7-13-09: A federal judge has overturned guilty verdicts against Lori Drew, issuing a directed acquittal on three misdemeanor charges. As Ms. Calabaza pointed out, Drew, 50, was accused of cyberbullying a 13-year-old Megan Meier who later committed suicide. The government argued that violating MySpace’s terms of service was the legal equivalent of computer hacking. But U.S. District Judge George Wu said no. “It basically leaves it up to a website owner to determine what is a crime.. And therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract,” explained Judge Wu.

Tina Meier, the mother of Megan Meier, said that the family is still considering whether to bring a civil case against Drew. Ron Meier, Megan Meier’s father, said that “a jury of her peers did convict her, so that itself is a victory.”

Drew was represented by attorney H. Dean Steward.

22 comments:

blond bombshell said...

If true, this was very cruel!

Shell

Ms Calabaza said...

I agree it was very cruel and if it's true I'm glad she was indicted but I would love to hear some "legal" opinions on what kind of case the prosecution has on this? I think this case is going to be very interesting to follow . . .

Joel A. Brodsky said...

Under the federal sentencing guidelines, because a death was caused by the criminal acts, the judge can max out the sentences and cause them to run consecutively. So Ms. Lori Drew could get 20 years for her crimes. (Under federal rules she would have to serve 85%) That may be harsh unless she intended to cause the girl to kill herself, but the crime does call out for a strong sentence if the defendant is convicted beyond a reasonable doubt.
The problem with computer crimes of this sort is proving who actually sat at the keyboard and typed the entries. Without a confession or eyewitness or proof that the computer was password protected and nobody else had the password, these cases are problematic in that regard. I expect however that the AUSA has solid evidence on this element. The feds rarely bring cases they don’t have strong for evidence on every element.

Anonymous said...

So much cooler, not crueler, on myspace!

Anonymous said...

I am really changing my opinion of this Joel B. guy. He is a real smart lawyer. His last few comments on stories are very helpful and informative. He may be the excellent lawyer L.P. says he is!

Ms Calabaza said...

Thanks Mr. Brodsky for that explanation. I have to agree with anonymous 12:06.

Anonymous said...

Me too. Joel you amaze me. If we are not talking, D.P., I actually like you. :) Very good insight.




Jen

Anonymous said...

Ditto above

Anonymous said...

My bet is that there will be a wrongful death civil suit!

Joel A. Brodsky said...

Civil wrongful death claims are becoming more common in what use to be strictly ciminal matters. In most criminal cases the defendants are usually poor so there is no money to sue for. in this case the defendants have money. At the time of Magna Carta there was no separate criminal and civl systems. Individuals brought ciminal charges for wrongs done to them. It seems we are either going backward to the prior situation, or our legal ancestors had it right all along.

Legal Pub said...

A recent case in New Orleans has decided that federal law protects MySpace.com with immunity from lawsuits alleging sexual assault of a teenage girl by a man she met on MySpace.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a Texas families lawsuit filed against MySpace and its parent company, News Corp.

The appeals court ruled that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 bars such lawsuits.A federal judge in Austin, Texas, dismissed the $30 million lawsuit on the same grounds last year.

jester said...

Think of the attention that the article would have generated if it read: Drew Indicted!

Anonymous said...

Yup, Drew indicted... the S.P. and D.P. factions go wild!

Anonymous said...

Joel. You are so right about civil wrongful death suits. The burden of proof is less and therefore more chance for families to get their pound of flesh.

Asset protection is probably a must to protect against civil garnishment in the event of a future verdict.

Placing houses and assets in trust etc might be smart for some?

Joel A. Brodsky said...

LP, do you have a cite on that case? (my client had several imposter myspace pages posted and we were considering suing the posters and myspace) Please post the cite or e-mail it to me. (web: www.brodskyodeh.com)
Also, to the poster about asset protection. putting a house in trust does not insulate it and in some circumstances makes it easier to attach for collection because (and this varies state to state, but is generally true) residential real estate has statutory protections and exemptions while the bennificial interest in a land trust is personal property and therefore can lack these protections.

Anonymous said...

L.P. is in trial again. Not sure of the cite but it is a 2008 case in the 5th circuit. "Parties complaining that they were harmed by a Web site's publication of user-generated content have recourse; they may sue the third-party user who generated the content, but not the interactive computer service that enabled them to publish the content online," according to Judge Edith Brown Clement wrote in the ruling.

Anonymous said...

L.P. is in trial again. Not sure of the cite but it is a 2008 case in the 5th circuit. "Parties complaining that they were harmed by a Web site's publication of user-generated content have recourse; they may sue the third-party user who generated the content, but not the interactive computer service that enabled them to publish the content online," according to Judge Edith Brown Clement wrote in the ruling.

Joel A. Brodsky said...

The case is Doe vs. Myspace, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 10612. Its an intersting read. While the interactive service (myspace) is immune, the originator of the post is still liable, so Lori is still on the hook.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joel

M.N.

Anonymous said...

Lori is an INNOCENT DREW

Viper said...

Lori needs good legal representation, in my opinion.

Legal Pub said...

The following update is courtesy of Ms. Calabaza:

Update 7-13-09: A federal judge has overturned guilty verdicts against Lori Drew, issuing a directed acquittal on three misdemeanor charges. As Ms. Calabaza pointed out, Drew, 50, was accused of cyberbullying a 13-year-old Megan Meier who later committed suicide. The government argued that violating MySpace’s terms of service was the legal equivalent of computer hacking. But U.S. District Judge George Wu said no. “It basically leaves it up to a website owner to determine what is a crime.. And therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract,” explained Judge Wu.

Tina Meier, the mother of Megan Meier, said that the family is still considering whether to bring a civil case against Drew. Ron Meier, Megan Meier’s father, said that “a jury of her peers did convict her, so that itself is a victory.”