A Missouri woman who posed as a 16-year-old boy on MySpace participated in “an elaborate scheme to inflict massive humiliation on a teenage” neighbor, and succeeded when the girl hanged herself, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.
During closing arguments in the nation’s first federal cyber-bullying case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Krause said Lori Drew, 49, hatched a plan to make Megan Meier, 13, fall in love with a boy she never met to “make fun of her” because the two families had a feud.
“The scheme went beyond a simple prank or a mere insult,” Krause told the panel. “The way she did this shows the extreme nature of the scheme, and that it was designed to prey on Megan’s weaknesses.”
In his summation, defense attorney H. Dean Steward reminded the jury that the whole electronic war game started when Meier insulted Drew’s daughter, Sarah, and throughout most of the conversations, nothing cruel was said.
“Megan dished it out the same way that she got it,” Steward said. “There was no cyber-bullying in any way you want to describe that term.”
Drew could get up to 20 years in prison if convicted of one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization. The jury also has the option of convicting on a misdemeanor.
Deliberations start Tuesday morning.
Defense Calls Evidence Prejudicial
The defense repeatedly complained that prosecutors improperly applied a computer hacking statute to a suicide case, and that they failed to prove that Lori Drew was aware of, or knowingly violated, MySpace’s policies.
Steward argued outside the jury’s presence that it was unfairly prejudicial to even tell the jury about the suicide since Drew isn’t charged with murder.
Defense witnesses testified it was Drew’s employee, Ashley Grills, who set up the fake MySpace page of Josh Evans, and used it to lure Meier into an online romance and then pull the rug out from under her.
Drew’s now 16-year-old daughter Sarah testified Monday that, on Oct. 16, she was with Grills and, “I told her not to send that last message” to Megan that said that the world would be a better place without her.
“Did Ashley send that last message?” O’Brien asked.
“Yes,” Drew said as she wept.
Two of the six female jurors dabbed at their eyes.
“She was my best friend,” the defendant’s daughter tearfully recalled.
After reading the message, Meier hanged herself in her bedroom closet.