LA grand jury probes MySpace teenage suicide case
Fake user said: 'World would be a better place without you'
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has subpoenaed MySpace and others in connection with a teenage girl who hanged herself after receiving cruel messages on the site from people posing as a 16-year-old boy.
The tragedy unleashed national outrage after authorities said "Josh Evans," the supposed boyfriend, was a fake identity that was set up by the mother of one of the girl's former friends. Prosecutors in Missouri, where 13-year-old Megan Meier committed suicide in 2006, didn't press charges, saying they could find no laws that were broken.
But according to this article in the Los Angeles Times, federal prosecutors from the region where MySpace is headquartered are taking a fresh look at the case. They are investigating whether the creation of a fake identity to harass Meier could constitute internet or wire fraud under federal statutes.
The paper, citing unnamed sources, says the grand jury issued several subpoenas last week, including one to MySpace.
Megan Meier and the daughter of Lori Drew lived within blocks of each other and were friends until their relationship soured as they entered middle school. Shortly after that, a good-looking boy who said his name was Josh Evans befriended Meier on MySpace.
His messages were warm at first. But they soon took on a steely cruelness, as he and other MySpace users filled her box with negative messages.
The final straw came in a message from the Evans account that said, "The world would be a better place without you." Meier hanged herself in her bedroom that same day.
After a confrontation between Meier's parents and Lori Drew, a police report showed Drew admitted she "instigated and monitored" the fake MySpace profile so she could see what Megan Meier might be saying to others about her former friend. (An attorney for Drew now says his client didn't create or direct anyone else to create the account and that while she was aware of the account, she never sent messages to Megan or anyone else using it.)
The revelation that Drew was aware of the fake account touched off a international firestorm. Initial press accounts didn't identify Drew by name, but outraged readers quickly searched public records, put two and two together and figured out her identity. People in the same county and across the world soon posted her name, address, phone number and other details in dozens of forums, including ones like this one, titled "lori drew family, psychos who pushed a teenager to suicide," on RottenNeighbor.com.
Local Sheriff's deputies have stepped up patrols in the neighborhood where Drew lives.
While those sympathetic to Meier are likely to applaud the involvement of Los Angeles federal prosecutors, some civil libertarians are less sanguine. An attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation told the Times he was concerned the case could set a legal precedent criminalizing online speech, particularly online anonymous speech, which is often used by whistle-blowers to report on unscrupulous corporations and government actors. ®
Fine no laws,
but that doesn't mean it doesn't cut both ways, you can't just do despicable things and assume no one will hold it against you, you have to take your chances just like your victim did, in the real world people are not so ready to allow this sort of behavior, which of course leaves you at the mercy of public opinion, anyone who owns a business should be aware of this. As for whistle blowers it's more involved you really can't be a totally anonymous whistle blower because you can't be assumed to be telling the truth anyone can lie only someone in the position to know the truth can be at least taken seriously so I think that whistle blowing only via the internet is a flawed idea at best too many fakes too much mischief just for the fun of it. Basically you have to go to a real journalist, or watchdog organisation privately just making bald statements on a Myspace page isn't believable. Someone with privilege has to verify you first otherwise there is no reason to take you seriously.
Teenagers should be banned from the internet, Its an adult world which they shouldn't be allowed to enter unsupervised. Period.
If they want to charge someone, it should be the girl's parents. For negligence.
Not quite, Scott...
There are a LOT more details to this story than have been listed here. This happened here in the St. Louis area where I live and I've been following this story for awhile now. I don't know ANY of the parties involved here. All of this stuff came from local news reports. There's been so much about this that I can't remember all of the details but here's some of the additional info:
1) I'm glad that the Register story here makes a point to mention the differences between Lori Drew's statements in the police report and what the Drews' lawyer said later on. I disagree with Scott that Lori Drew wasn't responsible. According to the police statement she...
...instigated and monitored a "my space" account which was created for the sole purpose of communicating with Meier's daughter. Drew said she, with the help of temporary empoyee named "Ashley", constructed a profile of "good looking" male on "my space" in order to "find out what Megan (Meier's daughter) was saying on-line" about her daughter. Drew explained the communication between the fake male profile was [?aimed? illeg] at gaining Megan's confidence and finding out what Megan felt about her daughter and other people. Drew stated she, her daughter, and Ashley all typed, read, and monitored the communication between the fake male profile and Megan. Drew went on to say, the communication became "sexual for a thirteen year old." Drew stated she continued the fake male profile despite this development...
That sure sounds to me like she did more than just "facilitate" this.
2) This all happened well over a year ago. The Meiers didn't know that this "Josh" was fake until someone else in the neighborhood told them about it. This other person also had a daughter and somehow this other daughter knew about what the Drews had done. Prior to this the Meiers had been trying to contact "Josh" thinking he was a real person.
3) Apparently the Drews even had a wake for Megan for the Meiers after she hung herself (and before they found out the details behind "Josh" of course).
4) As for the suicide itself, the police report says that Lori Drew "felt this incident contributed to Megan's suicide, but she did not feel 'as guilty' because at the funeral because she found out 'Megan had tried to commit suicide before.'" The Meiers say that Megan had NOT tried to kill herself previously, and no evidence has been put forward to support that she'd tried to kill herself so Lori Drew apparently made that up...
5) During the year the Meiers contacted the local prosecutor's office and then a private attorney (presumably in regards to filing a civil lawsuit). The prosecutor's office said that they didn't know what the Drews could be charged with. There were no laws which cover this directly. The private attorney apparently told them, too, that the chance of successfully suing the Drews would be slim. After this blew up in the papers the county prosecuting attorney decided that he would look into it, too, but he later declined to prosecute because he couldn't find any laws which they'd broken either.
6) Lori Drew had a small advertising company which sent mailers to local residents with ads from local businesses. The 'Ashley' mentioned above is an 18-year-old employee of the company. Lori Drew had her help set up and monitor this account along with Lori Drew and the Drew's daughter (the ex-friend of Megan Meier). The county prosecutor said that he was unable to talk to this Ashley about the incident because she had supposedly been committed to a local institution due to emotional problems after Megan's suicide. Other reports say that 'Ashley' was in a facility for awhile but was later released. The last report I heard about the Drew's daughter was that she was out-of-state now.
7) No one has ever admitted to sending the final message which apparently caused Megan to kill herself. There are conflicting reports that other teenagers had somehow found out about this account (such as the neighbor's daughter that I mentioned above) and that they were sending messages, too, as Josh. It's unclear who was sending what towards the end but supposedly Lori Drew was monitoring this account and, if not, she certainly should have been.
8) The Meiers had been holding a "gaming table" of some kind for the Drews. After the Meiers found out what the Drews had done they broke up the gaming table and left it in the Drew's front yard. The Drews apparently either called the police about it and/or threatened to sue the Meiers over that but presumably they dropped that idea later on.
There are certainly more facts involving this case but those are the only ones I remember offhand. Personally, I'm THRILLED that Lori Drew's advertising business had to close and I think she (at least) should be shunned for what she did and what she allowed to happen with the MySpace account. She was the adult here and should be held responsible for all of it.
Having said that, though, I don't know that she should be found guilty of causing Megan's suicide and I don't think that the Drew's house should be vandalized or the family harassed like they have been. Telephone threats of killing them all are too much. Some of the local businesses have even been threatened because they advertised in the Drew's fliers. I certainly don't blame people for calling the businesses and telling them that they won't shop at a store in the future which advertises in the Drew Advantage but it's not like these businesses knew about this in advance. They found out about it the same time the rest of us did.
Anyway, that's enough rambling...