Woman Indicted On Charges She "Cyber-Bullied"
13-Year-Old Who Later Committed Suicide
A Missouri woman was indicted May 15 on federal
charges claiming she fraudulently used an account on the social
networking Web site MySpace. The woman posed as a teenage boy who
feigned romantic interest in a 13 year-old girl, who later committed
suicide after the "boy" spurned her and told her, among other
things, that the world would be a better place without her according to a
press release from the US Department of Justice.
Lori Drew, 49, of O'Fallon, Mo., was named in a
four-count indictment returned this morning by a federal grand jury.
The indictment charges one count of conspiracy and three counts of
accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain
information to inflict emotional distress on the girl who, because
of juvenile privacy rules, is referred to in the indictment only as
The indictment alleges that Drew, along with
others, registered as a member of MySpace under the name "Josh
Evans." Drew and her co-conspirators then used the Josh Evans
account to contact M.T.M. and began what the girl believed was an
on-line romance with a 16-year-old boy. In taking those actions, the
indictment alleges, Drew and her co-conspirators violated MySpace's
terms of service that prohibit users from, among other things, using
fraudulent registration information, using accounts to obtain
personal information about juvenile members, and using the MySpace
communication services to harass, abuse or harm other members.
After approximately four weeks of flirtatious
communications between "Josh Evans" and M.T.M., Drew and her
co-conspirators broke off the relationship. Within an hour, M.T.M.
had hanged herself in her room. She died the next day.
"This adult woman allegedly used the Internet to
target a young teenage girl, with horrendous ramifications," said
U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien. "After a thorough investigation, we
have charged Ms. Drew with criminally accessing MySpace and
violating rules established to protect young, vulnerable people. Any
adult who uses the Internet or a social gathering Web site to bully
or harass another person, particularly a young teenage girl, needs
to realize that their actions can have serious consequences."
To become a member of MySpace, individuals are
required to submit registration information - including name and
date of birth - and have to agree to certain terms of service that
regulate their use of the Web site. Among other things, MySpace
terms of service require prospective members to provide truthful and
accurate registration information; to refrain from using any
information obtained from MySpace services to harass, abuse or harm
other people; to refrain from soliciting personal information from
anyone under 18; to refrain from promoting information that they
know is false or misleading; and to refrain from posting photographs
of other people without their consent. The indictment alleges that
Drew and her co-conspirators violated all of those provisions.
"Whether we characterize this tragic case as
'cyber-bullying,' cyber abuse or illegal computer access, it should
serve as a reminder that our children use the Internet for social
interaction and that technology has altered the way they conduct
their daily activities," said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director
in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. "As adults, we must be
sensitive to the potential dangers posed by the use of the Internet
by our children."
The conspiracy count carries a maximum statutory
penalty of five years in federal prison. Each count of accessing
protected computers, each of which alleges that the access was for
the purpose of intentionally inflicting emotional distress on M.T.M.,
carries a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a
defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be
innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Drew will be summoned to appear for an arraignment
in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in June.
This case was investigated by special agents with
the FBI in St. Louis and Los Angeles.
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