November 24, 2008

"If you hadn't heard the indictment read to you, you'd think this was a homicide case.... This, ladies and gentlemen, is a computer case..."

Closing arguments in the bizarre prosecution of Lori Drew:
The defense attorney insisted the only question is whether Drew violated the terms-of-service agreement of the MySpace social networking site. He said that Drew... never read the seven-page agreement.

"Nobody reads these things, nobody... How can you violate something when you haven't even read it? End of case. The case is over."
In the prosecutor's view: "The rules are fairly simple. You don't lie. You don't pretend to be someone else. You don't use the site to harass others."

Okay, fine, as a general rule, but should you go to prison for 20 years for lying and harassing and pretending to be a fictional person on line? Are we prepared to treat practical jokes like that across the board? Obviously not.

73 comments:

Simon said...

"Are we prepared to treat practical jokes like that across the board? Obviously not."

Depending on whether that's the royal or editorial we, it might be better to reserve judgment until the jury comes back.

And what's with the defense attorney? "Ladies and gentlement of the jury, ignorance of the contract you agreed to sign is a defense! The case is over!" Really? Since when? What case holds that a contract you agreed to isn't valid if you didn't read it?

William said...

Lori Drew did something petty and malicious. The sequlae of her malice was out of all proportion to her intent. She has received an enormous amount of community opprobium and I am sure that she has internalized a maasive sense of shame. Lori Drew did more than run a moral stop sign, but her transgression was not beyond all limits. Attention must be paid when a young life is violated and destroyed, but this was not a homicide. I think Lori Drew already feels a heavy weight of guilt and shame and that this weight will drag her to an early grave.

Zach said...

I wouldn't mind some sanity being injected into EULAs. They're not exactly negotiated agreements. Personally, I make a policy of not reading a word. If it ever came down to testifying, I would much rather say that I never even looked at the twenty pages of pidgin Latin than argue that I agreed or disagreed with one particular point.

It might be helpful if there were some centralized policy or common law on what exactly can be claimed in a EULA.

William said...

Further thoughts on regret and shame: Orwell said that you don't get the face you deserve until you turn forty. Bill Ayers is the exception to that rule. His face seems strangely soft and unformed. He has a lost his hair and there are sags around the eyes, but his face does not have the deep lines of someone who has fretted forever over some deep grief. He spent years in hiding. His friends died young or went away to prison. But none of this is reflected in his face. His face is plump and satisfied. He wears, in his sixties, an earring to indicate his membership in some youth tribe that long ago grew up......Lori Drew's crimes were on behalf of petty malice, and she knows it. I think that that is a heavy punishment. Bill Ayers is blessed with a smugness that is more powerful than the righteousness of a saint. He will go to his grave convinced of the nobility of his foolish life.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

I don't think "we" should prosecute all people who pull pranks like this with such severity. But this woman, this Lori Drew, she should be put away in solitary confinement for the rest of her life.

Or, I wish all of her personal and most private secrets, diary entries, nude pictures, social security number, weight, everything about her, ever, was published online for everyone to look at, forever. She's the worst of the worst, folks. A total garbage dump of a human being.

Ann Althouse said...

"What case holds that a contract you agreed to isn't valid if you didn't read it?"

It's not a contracts case. It's a criminal case. What is the crime and how does it hinge on a MySpace TOS?

Ann Althouse said...

Let's remember that the young woman who went to an early grave killed herself, as many do, and we don't normally prosecute everyone who hurt the suicide's feelings. And by the way, the suicide hurt Drew's feelilngs too: She called her daughter ugly and a lesbian.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

I think I would make an excellent judge, or possibly a professional juror. Do they have those? There should be full time jurors, career jurors who are renowned for making the right decisions over and over again.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

Grown women like this shouldn't be on MySpace. It's illegal for pedophiles to contact young boys/girls on MySpace. How is she any different than a pedophile? She misrepresented herself and engaged a teenage girl over the internet.

The problem is this woman will never think she did anything wrong. When she is found innocent or given a slap on the wrist (she's not going to jail), she'll go on pissing and moaning to anyone who will listen (book deal? a talk show on Fox?) about how she was a scape goat or singled out or the victim of a witch hunt, blah blah blah.

I can't wish for or condone what I'm about to say, but the only just punishment for this woman seems to be for her daughter to die.

Seven Machos said...

What case holds that a contract you agreed to isn't valid if you didn't read it?

I certainly recall this being an issue in my Contracts class in law school. My professor was this nutty liberal, and his position was that agreements, particularly these check-the-box type agreements, are so unilateral as to be unfair. The fact that no one reads them makes it even more unfair.

I think it's a good point. I don't know if there's actually any case law.

Duscany said...

I don't know why the US Attorney in Los Angeles wants to prosecute this case anyway. Lori Drew (or her daughter) lied when she set up a MySpace account. Whoopie doo! This feels like selective prosecution. There must be thousands of people who lied when they set up their MySpace accounts. I don't see anyone arresting them.

Just because Lori Drew is the ethical equivalent of a potato maggot doesn't mean she did anything illegal. If we want to punish her for what she did, I say we should all shun her for the next ten years, cross the street whenever we see her coming and throw our glasses into the fireplace whenever she enters the dining hall.

Rose said...

I agree with Zachary Paul Sire. I don't think she feels any remorse, only defense, telling herself she didn't intend it to go that far. God forbid any of our kids runs across a monster like her in the parents that surround us. I don't care whether she read the agreement - it's her vicious toying in an innocents life, and meddling where parents don't belong.

There is something distinctly different about using the online forum to do this. Somehow. It goes to the id, for lack of a better term. The interactive nature of it hits harder than a letter. All of us who blog know the sting that can come across these typed words, and how deeply it can cut if you aren't heavily armored.

blake said...

I stopped following it early on. It seemed pretty clear before she had marshaled her "she did it first" defense.

It's hard to say from a distance for sure that she's as horrible a human being as she seems to be. But even if she is, you can't make stuff like that illegal.

Craig Landon said...

"But even if she is, you can't make stuff like that illegal."

Perhaps not. She may walk, to the ends of the earth. But I can still judge her guilty in my little corner of the world. And I do. And she knows it.

Daryl said...

This "crime" is apparently committed by everyone who downloads a Flash video from YouTube without YouTube's permission--and similar access to web sites in violation of their terms of service.

In other words, there are probably 10M Americans who are guilty.

Yet it is being enforced against this one particular person.

I would like to see the Supreme Court step up its jurisprudence with regard to arbitrary enforcement of "laws" that are so broad as to make millions of ordinary Americans into felons, and are enforced on a prosecutor's whim.

Also: shame on the judge for letting evidence of the suicide in. It's obviously extremely prejudicial and has no probative value as to any of the elements of the offense.

blake said...

Perhaps not. She may walk, to the ends of the earth. But I can still judge her guilty in my little corner of the world. And I do. And she knows it.

By all means.

From my limited understanding, I see the intent to make a young girl kill herself and the actions undertaking to cause that to come about.

I'd be comfortable calling that evil.

I'm not comfortable with the state taking it upon itself to "do something" about it.

But society? Go to town.

LutherM said...

Perhaps, as a matter of law, the fact that the chosen victim of Lori Drew committed suicide should not be admitted in court. But Lori Drew DID participate in a scheme calculated to cause emotional pain to a young girl.
So, 20 years in prison may be too harsh. But prison time for those mean-spirited set of actions is appropriate.
If we send people to prison for negligence, incarceration for intentional harm with unintended consequences is just.

Bissage said...

Lori Drew is a modern day witch who used modern technology to cast an evil spell.

Her punishment should updated accordingly.

She should be irradiated at the stake.

Darcy said...

Lori Drew, an adult (mother!?)cruelly and relentlessly harrassed a minor who ended up killing herself. From all I've read, it sounds to me like she understood completely the emotional torture she was inflicting, and had little remorse about the consequences until she was under threat of prosecution.

If there isn't a law for jailing people like this, there should be.

As far as the law goes, it looks like she will probably not be convicted. Hopefully, she'll be convicted by society for a long, long time.

Guesst said...

Lori Drew's employee created the myspace account that was used. Lori Drew never saw the TOS at the time the account was made. She was only provided the screen ID and the password.

It's a tragic horrible loss for the family, but it isn't Lori Drew's responsibility that a depressed child was sent over the brink by the breakup of her online romance.

Furthermore, some testimony by the parents is suspect-and nobody is talking about why a parent sends her child to the Internet to have a relationship with an unknown identity. What parent actively participates in making their child available to someone who MIGHT BE a pedophile, or a fraud?

Ms. Drew's employee was an equal participant in the activities, but is not being prosecuted, only because she turned first. Is that right?

This is a case full of sleight of hand. Lori Drew is not very nice, but she did not kill the little girl, and she didn't violate TOS on an account someone gave her access to.

Guesst said...

Remember that the suicide happened more than a year before the case gained notoriety-or anyone thought to prosecute it.

The authorities did nothing until after the angry mob was incited into taking action against the Drew family, months and months later.

Bissage said...

Beeeeeee updated!

Her punishment should be updated accordingly!

Be, be. BE, be, Be, bE!1!!1!

BEE!!!

Beeeeautiful.

(" . . . be . . . ")

Quayle said...

If you ask me, I'd say that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are a complete mess.

They produce such disparate and seemingly unjust results

Fortunately, thanks to the SCOTUS, they are now only guidelines and not mandatory as they were intended.

rdkraus said...

The article says, "Drew has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and accessing computers without authorization. She could be sentenced to as many as 20 years in prison if convicted of all counts."

Conspiracy to what? Harass? Isn't that like a petty disorderly persons offense kind of thing? Ya know like with 6 months exposure and a $500 max fine, and no one ever goes to jail anyway?

Accessing a computer without authorization? This is a crime you can get 20 years for? Oy. Lotta felons walking around. I've had people waiting around during a closing sit down at my secretary's desk and look at their own EMail. Are they felons?

Is pleaded a word?

This is one of those cases where everyone thinks the Defendant is, shall we say less than wholesome, but it's not really a crime; yet, we so want to punish. So we force it into so-called criminal behavior.

Lawgiver said...

It's illegal for pedophiles to contact young boys/girls on MySpace.

Really.

Do you mean convicted pedophiles? I have never heard of a law making it illegal for people who experience a sexual preference for prepubescent children to contact youngsters on MySpace. As long as they don't act on their desires where is the crime? Misrepresenting yourself isn't pedophilia and Drew is not a pedophile and you would make a lousy juror.

laura said...

Rose and Darcy, I would agree. I can't get away from the parallels that I see between what Drew precipitated and what a heroin supplier does. A heroin dealer is held responsible when one of his customers dies. The same should hold true for Drew.

dbp said...

Ann said, "Are we prepared to treat practical jokes like that across the board? Obviously not."

1. It wasn't a practical joke, the lady intended harm, though possibly not as much harm as she caused.

2. No. Not all technical violations of this sort should be prosecuted. When there is obvious malice, prosecutorial discression comes into play. IIRC Al Capone ended up in prison on tax evasion charges.

cheerful iconoclast said...

Guesst, this wasn't a "breakup of an online romance:" it was an "online romance" with somebody who didn't exist, the purpose of which was to humiliate a depressed girl.

The extent of Drew's participation in this "prank" is in some dispute. She may only have observed and laughed along, or she may have been an active participant. But even on her version of events, decent people don't let their children pull such pranks. Lori Drew is a scumbag.

That said, it does seem the prosecutor is torturing the law to get her. What she did was despicable, but not criminal.

I do have one question, however. Does Drew still have custody of minor children? At a minimum, she has demonstrated that she is not a fit mother. She should never be allowed to have custody of any children again, ever.

Synova said...

Firstly... 20 years if convicted on all counts means... what? Two years here, four there, another six months for another "counts" and it adds up to 20?

And violating the TOS... sure she did. True, no one reads them, but everyone knows they are there and understands that if you violate them you lose your service. Go to jail? MOST people would figure (even if wrongly) that doing something on-line that was illegal (or wrong) in Real Life that it would be illegal (and wrong) on-line, too.

And whether or not this is *illegal*, would it be illegal if the woman set up a pen-pal exchange between a cute boy and a girl she intended to hurt and sent it through the post office?

Practical joke?

Yeah, right. It wasn't a joke, ever. It was an adult woman trying to hurt a child as bad as she could hurt her.

And for any of you all who says Lori Drew feels guilty and has to carry that horrible shame... that's what punishments are *for*... so people can do their time. If she doesn't feel like she *ought* to go to jail for her terrible mistake, then she doesn't *feel* like she did anything wrong.

Synova said...

I suppose what I'm trying to say is...

If Lori Drew understood the TOS or not... like MOST people she probably had no idea of what the law actually says and no idea AT ALL that there weren't laws that applied to on-line harassment that would have applied to Real Life harassment... notes sent through the postal service, for example, or physically slipped under the victims door or into her locker.

When this first came out normal people assumed that of *course* she'd broken a law or two, that of course what she'd done was illegal and criminal.

That it turns out there really wasn't anything or anyway to charge her for a crime came as a surprise to most regular people.

So... it's far more likely that Lori Drew *thought* she was doing something wrong, and possibly illegal, than it is that she thought she was doing nothing wrong.

Unless someone wants to argue that this moron was an expert in the law?

Big Mike said...

I think I need my head examined; I'm about to argue law with a law professor and me a techie. But here goes anyway.

During the martial arts training I took back in the days of my mis-spent youth, it was emphasized that if we struck a blow that would normally be non-lethal and it killed our opponent anyway because of a congenital weakness (e.g., a blow to the center of the chest that can, due to genetic problems, stop the person's heart) then we could find ourselves charged with a crime, possibly second-degree homicide but manslaughter at least. Perhaps the laws are different in Wisconsin (or Missouri)?

If I were on the jury the thing that would move me to vote for conviction is the fact that Lori Drew knew that the child she was attacking was suffering from serious depression. She knew the family, knew the child, should have realized the risks of exactly what happened. She should suffer the consequences.

Oh, and Professor. Suppose you were to commit a "practical joke" (which the Drew case is not -- Lori Drew meant to inflict psychological harm) and it backfired and the victim died as a consequence. What does Wisconsin law have to say about that? Are not the perpetrators of the joke held liable for the death?

TosaGuy said...

It is amazing how folks think that they can do anything on the internet, either because they think it is not real, or they think they won't get caught. Some think that the internet allows people to escape into a different reality. My opinion is that the internet magnifies someone's personality. People naturally restrain or moderate aspects their natural personality in the give and take of real life. With that restraint removed, then people feel liberated to act out the most extreme parts of their personality (just look at the comments section of websites). This is neither good or bad, it simply exists and for every person who overcomes crippling shyness due to internet interaction and can better function in the real world there is a POS like Lori Drew.

We have really only had the public internet for 10-15 years. Those of us 30 and over grew up pre-internet -- we learned how to interact with people and developed our personality around real people. We see the internet as a bit of escape from the real world. Today's kids are growing up learning how to interact in virtual reality just as much as they do in the real world. To them, the internet is part of their real world and it has meaning.

I have to admit that I do not know all the details of this case, but it really seems to me that you have an adult, who felt free to act on her base impulses because she subconsciously didn't think it was reality, and a child that considered the internet as part of her reality. A perfect storm of overreaction on both sides.

With all that said, Drew is an adult responsible for her actions and should be held accountable. If she becomes an example to wake folks up, I don't have a problem with that.

Richard Dolan said...

Perhaps there is some special computer statute that criminalizes a breach of an on-line service's TOS, but from the brief description in the article the theory of the indictment sounds like wire fraud. On the civil side, there is lots of law to the effect that a simple breach of contract cannot amount to a fraud. Fraud requires a knowing misrepresentation of fact that the victim of the fraud relies upon to his detriment. For a breach of contract to meet that standard requires proof that, at the time of the making of the contract, the defendant had no intention of abiding by its terms. The defense summation -- offering a theme of "nobody reads these things" -- sounds like it is intended to refute just that kind of argument by the prosecutor.

In criminal cases, the wire fraud statute (18 USC 1343) has been given a wide scope. It reads, in pertinent part: "Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both."

It's hard to see how the defendant here intended to obtain "money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises," by pretending to be someone she wasn't on MySpace. Assuming that MySpace is free (I'm nor familiar with it), the function of the TOS is mostly the protection it affords MySpace from liability claims, a protection that it presumably got here. In context the TOS is a bit of formalism that was never intended to, and could not reasonably be relied upon to, limit access to the MySpace site. But that would have to be the prosecution's theory of who was defrauded (MySpace) and what they were defrauded of (access to the site). In short, the indictment seems to be based on a convenient fiction.

No doubt the defense lawyers used some such argument in unsuccessfully seeking the dismissal of the indictment at an earlier stage of the case. The real problem with cases like this is that a very general criminal statute is being applied in a novel and unpredictable way in a context where its application turns on a fiction. Whatever happened to the rule of lenity. Perhaps it's no surprise that this strange indictment is playing out in LaLa land.

bearbee said...

I agree with Zachary Paul Sire. I don't think she feels any remorse, only defense, telling herself she didn't intend it to go that far.

In spite of any bitching and moaning on her part about being a victim of the system, as she lives her life I think that it will dig into her soul. She will at times awaken in the dead of night and drenched in cold sweat, she will remember the young death her malicious actions inadvertently caused.

It will always be there between her daughter and herself.

Althouse your tag includes 'unfair sentence'. In your judgment what would be a 'fair sentence?'

Zachary Paul Sire said...

She is a pedophile. Case closed.

How is molesting a child's mind any different than molesting her body?

John Burgess said...

If there isn't a law for jailing people like this, there should be.

This is exactly the problem. Whatever role Drew played in leading to the suicide, there is no law directly addressing it.

Instead, we have a prosecutor using a very different law to seek some bit of 'justice' in a case which is not, presently, criminal.

Stretching a law that forbids X to cover offenses A-W, with Y and Z thrown in, is not something we should be encouraging.

What Drew did is reprehensible. We agree on that. But what she did is not currently illegal.

Shanna said...

It's a tragic horrible loss for the family, but it isn't Lori Drew's responsibility that a depressed child was sent over the brink by the breakup of her online romance.

I don’t think you should be able to prosecute based on someone else’s suicide, unless you were holding a gun to their head and forcing them to do it. Mental Illness was likely involved, and that is not some jerk on the internet’s fault. That seems like a bad precedent to set. Somebody in my high school killed himself because his girlfriend broke up with him. Should we prosecute that girl, even if she had done it maliciously, or cheated on him, or ignored warnings (she didn’t, as far as I know).

"Drew has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and accessing computers without authorization. She could be sentenced to as many as 20 years in prison if convicted of all counts."

This is insane. You should not be able to go to jail for 20 years for lying on Myspace. Period. Damn.

Also, may I point out that if someone is mean to you on the computer, there is an option to turn it off? This is far different from a real crime, or even a verbal altercation.

Synova said...

What Drew did is reprehensible. We agree on that. But what she did is not currently illegal.

She didn't know that.

To keep on the topic of ignorance of the law and all...

Synova said...

This is far different from a real crime, or even a verbal altercation.

How?

How is it different from a verbal altercation? How is it different from someone putting notes under your door or mailing you letters through the post office? How is it different from stalking? How is it different from any other sort of harassment?

Because you can turn off the computer?

You don't have to read your mail. You don't have to listen to what someone is yelling at you. You don't have to read the obscene note stuck in your locker. You don't have to look at the rude gesture a coworker makes every time you enter a room. And the guy who is at the corner every time you turn around or sitting in his car outside your house... don't look at him.

Big Mike said...

Shanna there is a crucial distinction between this case and some random "jerk on the Internet" sending you or I a nasty-gram. The distinction is that Lori Drew knew the victim very well, knew of Megan's depression, and should have been able to foresee the result (suicide of a minor child) of her actions.

I'm still awaiting an answer from the law professor: since when is "I didn't mean for it to go that far" an adequate defense?

Zachary Paul Sire said...

How is it different from a verbal altercation? How is it different from someone putting notes under your door or mailing you letters through the post office? How is it different from stalking? How is it different from any other sort of harassment?

I think you're missing or forgetting the fact that this was an ADULT harassing a CHILD.

How would you like it if some grown man was slipping notes "under your door" for your 13-year-old daughter?

Shanna said...

How would you like it if some grown man was slipping notes "under your door" for your 13-year-old daughter?

Notes under the door is close to physical contact. Random people on the internet are different to me.

Maybe it has something to do with that age disparity mentioned earlier in this thread and young people do see the internet as "real", but to me you can just turn it off if it bothers you. I don't see that as a big deal. Not that she's a nice lady or anything, just don't think it should be a huge crime. Not when murderers are out in 5 years, at least.

Shanna said...

You don't have to read your mail. You don't have to listen to what someone is yelling at you. You don't have to read the obscene note stuck in your locker. You don't have to look at the rude gesture a coworker makes every time you enter a room. And the guy who is at the corner every time you turn around or sitting in his car outside your house... don't look at him.

I, personally, think it’s different because there is a physical presence involved in someone slipping a note under your door. There is some sort of an implied threat there. An “I can get to you” sort of vibe. The internet is very, very different.
I do think it’s creepy that she knew the girl, but I’m not sure that creepy is a crime, that’s all.

Synova said...

Phone calls aren't "close to physical contact" but try calling someone up and telling them that the world would be better off if they were dead.

Joan said...

Isn't the penalty for violating the TOS denial of service? How can it possibly go from denial of service (that is, shutdown of your MySpace account) to 20 years in prison? That makes no sense.

What Lori Drew did is despicable -- she is a bully who used a computer as her method. But that does not make her responsible for Megan's death. From my perspective, the only reason this case even exists is because Megan's parents feel guilty. What kind of parents let their depressed, suicidal teenage daughter hang out on MySpace, developing a "relationship" that is most likely based on lies? If you know your kid is mentally ill, why let them play in an online playground full of posers? That's asking for trouble.

This phrase leaped out at me: meddling where parents don't belong. Completely, 180 degrees backward. Parents do belong on MySpace, they should know who their kids are hanging out with in real life and online. Do you have any idea the garbage that kids post out there? Just wait until these kids try to get a real job in 6 or 8 or 10 years, and someone googles them and finds their naughty/stupid pictures on MySpace, along with their myriad rants. Good luck getting a job with a morals and ethics clause. People forget that the Internet is forever.

And there is a huge difference between what happened to Megan and in-person bullying. Megan (or Megan's parents) could have shut down her MySpace account, or blocked messages from the "boyfriend". Avoiding one person on MySpace does not cut you off from the entire Internet. As hard as it is to walk away from a forum you're used to hanging out in, it is possible. Megan's parents knew she was vulnerable, that's why she was in treatment. Maybe they believed that her treatment was sufficient so they didn't have to monitor her, or maybe Megan pushed them away and wouldn't tell them what she was doing online. Regardless, if a vulnerable child commits suicide, the primary responsibility there must rest with her parents.

ZPS: if you were 18 or 21 I could brush off your statements as those of a callow youth. Since you're considerably older, you have no excuse -- unless what you write here is your online persona. That would be a relief, but unfortunately I don't think that's the case.

Oligonicella said...

I'm in full agreement with Zachary Paul Sire and others. She's scum.

"Are we prepared to treat practical jokes like that across the board?"

Anyone who thinks that what this woman did was a practical joke has some sick, deep issues.

"And by the way, the suicide hurt Drew's feelilngs too: She called her daughter ugly and a lesbian."

So, a young teen calling another young teen an ugly lesbian is equivalent to a grown woman purposely on-line stalking and harassing said depressed young teen in a manner designed to gain trust and emotional commitment, then telling her the world would be better off without her?

And no, she hurt the daughter's feelings, who went and told mom and mom got mad for her and started plotting.

Besides, you're stopping short of where Drew's daughter called names as well. They were teenage girls with a tiff going. It was mutual until a knowledgeable adult intervened.

Zeb Quinn said...

I don't know about others, but I know intuitively that what this Lori Drew woman did was despicable. Worse than despicable. I don't care what name the other girl called her daughter. The adult response is to either try to be a peacemaker, or to do whatever is necessary to distance and/or remove your own daughter from the fray. What you DON'T do is use every bit of your adult guile and wile to harass and psychologically torture the other child --a 13-year old-- as payback.

Here's the money part from the news story, the part that seals it for me:

Both prosecutors made references to testimony that Megan had been under treatment for depression, and Sarah, in testimony before final arguments, said she was aware Megan had been taking medication and seeing a psychiatrist.

In other words, the Drew side of this, quite logically including the mother, knew the other girl, again, a 13-year old, had some serious mental issues going on before they undertook 4 weeks of systematically harassing her.

I have no sympathy whatsoever for Lori Drew. Thirteen seconds in the electric chair works for me.

Oligonicella said...

Joan --

"And there is a huge difference between what happened to Megan and in-person bullying."

Become familiar with what Drew did. It wasn't bullying in the manner you're portraying, so your argument falls.

"Parents do belong on MySpace,..."

Agreed. Just not as on-line stalkers. Do you disagree with that addendum?

Synova said...

The accounts I have read were that the "boy" and all the wonderful friendly stuff went on for a long time... what is a parent supposed to object to, Joan? Friends?

The turn... where the "boy" suddenly started accusing the girl of not being nice, happened all at once.

And Lori Drew did not send the last message.

Yet, it seems to have been her idea.

Her idea to make a pretend boy to make a particular, real, person feel like she had a friend... because she knew the girl was vulnerable.

Her idea to do that for the express purpose of gaining the girl's trust.

Her idea to make it a "group project" that included other children in the "joke."

Ooops! Didn't mean for her to *kill* herself... just meant for her to think she had a real friend, that there was a boy who thought she was nice, and then... what?

Richard Dolan said...

Over at Volokh, Orin Kerr makes it is clear that the "prosecution's theory of the case is that intentionally violating a website's Terms of Service is a misdemeanor violation of 18 USC 1030(a)(2)C), and that this misdemeanor becomes a felony when it is undertaken in furtherance of the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Section 1030(a)(2)(C) makes it a crime to "intentionally acces[s] a computer without authorization or exceed[ing] authorized access, and thereby obtain[ing] ... information from any protected computer if the conduct involved an interstate or foreign communication." A violation of that statute is a misdemeanor unless that it becomes a 5-year felony if the "offense under subsection (a)(2) ... was committed in furtherance of any criminal or tortious act in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States or of any State ...."

Joan said...

Oligonicella, I have made it clear that what Lori Drew did is despicable -- I agree with Zeb Quinn's first paragraph in his post just above yours, about Lori Drew's behavior. The prosecution, according to CBS News, is calling this a cyber-bullying case.

There are plenty of ways to hassle people online (spamming their email, denial-of-service attacks on their ISPs, etc). That's not what happened to Megan, who was drawn into a "relationship" with a boy that never existed, and who then "broke up" with her. But no one forced Megan to go to MySpace.

The worst thing about this is, the mother admits that her daughter was upset about a name-calling exchange online, and she responded with a generic 'you're not supposed to be online and you shouldn't have gotten into an argument.' Real helpful, Mom -- the daughter told her the same thing: "You are supposed to be my mom, you're supposed to be on my side." It was the last thing she said to her mother before she killed herself.

I'm sticking with parental guilt as the reason behind this trial. What Lori Drew did was horrible, but it's not her fault the girl committed suicide. The mother knew her daughter was distraught after the computer incident, but she left the girl alone long enough for her to hang herself. That'll give any parent guilt enough for two lifetimes.

Synova asked: what is a parent supposed to object to, Joan? Friends?

There's no such thing as a friend on MySpace, as this case demonstrates. Unless you know the person in real life, you have no idea who you are talking to. Any parent that lets their child get emotionally involved with a stranger over the internet is asking for trouble. Any parent who doesn't teach their teenager that "on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog" is irresponsible. I know a 15-year-old girl who was raped by a man she met online -- I'm not sure whether or not it was MySpace, but it was in some online teen community. He was a predator and she was only one of his victims. Parents need to talk to their kids about this stuff and make sure the kids understand how serious it is.

Oligonicella said...

Joan --

"The mother knew her daughter was distraught after the computer incident, but she left the girl alone long enough for her to hang herself."

Wow, just wow.

Synova said...

Well, golly gee, Joan.

Maybe the parents did have an understanding about any real life meet-ups.

Maybe they did lay down the rules about internet friendships, about giving out personal information or addresses and everything else.

What kind of an idiot meets someone from the internet without witnesses or gives out their information?

Oh, yeah...the raped kind.

Harsh, no?

But harsh is okay, right?

Probably deserved to be raped. Idiot. Certainly not the rapists, fault... just the fault of parents who pimped their kid out there and set her up for it. Asses.

Bissage said...

JUROR #3: Rotten kids . . . you work your life out!

[breaks down sobbing]

JUROR #3: Not Guilty. Not Guilty.

Joan said...

Synova: Probably deserved to be raped.

No one deserves to be raped, not even men serving out prison sentences. How many teenage girls have decided that you were the first person, the only person, they could tell that they were raped? If you've dealt with it, you have some idea how I felt about it. If you haven't, conduct a thought experiment and see how it turns out.

Regarding the case: the girl came to her mother for help, the mother brushed her off. If you want to blame someone for the girl's death -- I don't -- blame her mother.

The facts appear to be: the girl was mentally unstable. She was the victim of a cruel and malicious set-up. She went to her mother for help, who scolded her and left her alone. She killed herself. What if the mother had reacted sympathetically instead? You want to explain to me why it's Lori Drew's fault the girl is dead when the girl was rejected by her mother when she went to her for help?

Lori Drew is a scumbag, but the reason that Megan is dead is her mother 1) failed to see how distraught her daughter really was and 2) didn't take steps to prevent her daughter from getting back on the computer after the name-calling incident. That last message exchange ("the world would be better off without you") came after the name-calling incident that Megan reported to her mother.

Harsh? It's called being a parent.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

ZPS: if you were 18 or 21 I could brush off your statements as those of a callow youth

I don't know what statements you're referring to, but I stand by all of them. While Drew can't be held responsible for the suicide, she engaged in behavior that is equal to that of a pedophile.

An adult used romance to lure a child over the internet, case closed. What part of that don't you understand, Joan?

If you were 18 or 21 years old I would brush off your statements as callow, but you're an adult and you should know better. And your comments about blaming the dead girl's mother are despicable. It's classless and disgusting that you would take the time to focus your so-called judgment on her rather than the other mother who has far more to answer to. God forbid anything ever happens to your children and somebody starts blaming you. Insane.

Darcy said...

Zachary: I agree with you on the luring part.

I wonder how this is so hard to see? How is this different from a pedophile trying to lure a child?
Preying on weakness?

Of course, Megan's mother made a mistake, and neglected to understand what was going on. But responsible for the torture of an known unstable teen? That rests on Lori Drew's head.

No, she is not responsible for Megan's death. But she is responsible for a large part of the pain that caused it.

How is she not culpable for something here? We don't have a law right now apparently, but we should have a law protecting minors from predators like Lori Drew.

Shanna said...

And your comments about blaming the dead girl's mother are despicable.

I think the point she’s making is that blaming anyone for the suicide is pointless, because there are probably multiple factors. You are deliberately misreading her so you can claim to be more compassionate. Nobody thinks this is a good thing, or that this person is a decent human being. What she did was pathetic.

But as for the girl who died, in this instance it may have been this that set her off, but it could just as easily have been the mother, or somebody at school or anything else. She may have killed herself absent this incident entirely. We don’t know, because mental illness is a complicated thing and people who are depressed are not always rational.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

I'm not interested in blaming anyone for the suicide or trying to figure out what contributed to it. I'm saying that Lori Drew, an adult, lured and harassed a child over the internet, using the promise of romance. She is a pedophile and it's a shame the prosecution couldn't have found a way to bring her up on charges for that.

Joan said...

Zachary, calling Lori Drew a pedophile is ridiculous. Accusing Lori Drew of being sexually attracted to children and trying to lure Megan into some kind of physical relationship is baseless. Yes, Drew created a persona that was attractive to Megan, but not so that Drew could have sex with her. What Drew did was evil, but don't confuse that with the evil that is pedophilia. And hoping that Drew's own daughter dies is disgusting.

It's those statements that I'm objecting to, and even you had an inkling that at least one of them was wrong because you put a disclaimer in before you wrote it. But you still wrote it.

As for judging the mother, don't you think that mother is judging herself? I can't imagine the guilt that poor woman is feeling. Do you think she holds herself blameless for shrugging off her daughter's plea for support?

Suicide is way too complicated for us to point to any one thing that pushes a victim to take her own life. Certainly, what Drew did contributed to Megan's mental state, but we will never know what made Megan decide to kill herself. We can only speculate.

God forbid anything ever happens to your children and somebody starts blaming you.
Guess what, Zach? If something like that happened to one of my children, I would blame myself, because it would be my fault. I'm responsible for my children, including the activities they undertake online.

Shanna, thanks for taking the time to read what I wrote.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

What Drew did was evil, but don't confuse that with the evil that is pedophilia.

There is no confusion. You obviously don't understand what pedophilia is. Just because there wasn't sex involved doesn't mean it wasn't child abuse. Again, what part of "an adult used an internet romance to lure a child" don't you understand?

Joan, empty the rocks out of your head and respond when you have something semi-intelligible to say.

Your inclination to attack the mother of the deceased with such vehemence while you go out of your way to post comments defending a psychopath like Lori Drew is very telling. You've got issues, lady.

Now get off the internet and go raise your children.

Big Mike said...

I think Zeb gets the point, and Joan and Shanna are missing it. Since Lori Drew knew the family and knew that Megan was suffering from depression, she clearly should have known that what she was doing could very well trigger a suicide attempt.

IMAO we need to separate whether or not Lori Drew is despicable (of course she is) from whether or not she is culpable in Megan's death. I disagree that one can say that Megan killed herself and besides it was her parents' responsibility to keep her safe. I would give Lori Drew a pass if she had no reason to know that Megan suffered from depression. Once she knew that, what actually happened was foreseeable and Lori Drew should have foreseen it. What she did was the Internet equivalent of leaving a loaded handgun where a child could reach it.

Mortimer Brezny said...

In the prosecutor's view: "The rules are fairly simple. You don't lie. You don't pretend to be someone else. You don't use the site to harass others."

Okay, fine, as a general rule, but should you go to prison for 20 years for lying and harassing and pretending to be a fictional person on line? Are we prepared to treat practical jokes like that across the board? Obviously not.


Ann is right. Perhaps this is improper behavior, but people do it for fun, and one of the primary draws for many to the Internet is anonymity.

But let's revise the rule after this woman is convicted.

Joan said...

Zachary, you quote me calling Drew evil, but then say I'm defending her and attacking the mother. In reality, I am doing neither. I would never defend what Drew did, as it was indefensible. But that doesn't make it pedophilia. It's not pedophilia when abusive parents give their kids treats and then beat the crap out of them for eating candy, either. It's sick, but it's not pedophilia. Nor was I attacking the mother. I was stating the facts of the case, which the mother herself described in the article I linked above. Do you think the mother shares any responsibility at all, since she brushed off her daughter's literal cry for help?

I'm not willing to make any assumptions about what Drew could reasonably assume (that suicide could be an end result of her actions), because she doesn't seem like the sharpest tool in the shed. A woman as petty and vindictive as she has shown herself to be isn't likely to think about much beyond inflicting pain and how good that revenge is going to feel. IMO she must be both ignorant and immature to behave the way she did, no better than a child herself. People are assholes, does that mean they get convicted and thrown in jail for lying about who they are on MySpace?

IMAO we need to separate whether or not Lori Drew is despicable (of course she is) from whether or not she is culpable in Megan's death.
As the post's title indicates, Drew was indicted for violating the terms of service, not for influencing Megan's suicide.

Pogo said...

I would hope the judge might say this:
"Lori Drew did something evil, something despicable. She did something horrible that no adult should ever do to a child. It was no joke, no prank. It culminated in a suicide, and for that she bears some responsibility.

Unfortunately, what she did violates no law that really covers this terrible act. Shame on Lori Drew and her daughter. It makes me sick to say this, but not guilty."

Lawgiver said...

ZPS bleats,

She is a pedophile and it's a shame the prosecution couldn't have found a way to bring her up on charges for that.

You are a true moron. Drew is not a pedophile just because you say so. She wasn't charged with pedophilia because she's not a pedophile. No matter how much you rant and rave you can't change the meaning of words. She is a lot of evil things but pedophile isn't one of them.

Synova said...

So what you're saying, Lawgiver, is that pedophiles are not arrested and convicted for what they *do*... they are arrested and convicted for what they *are*.

Sure, all Lori Drew intended was a mind-fuck, but she impersonated someone on the internet in order to draw a child into a romantic relationship.

What do they arrest pedophiles for and with what justification?

Big Mike said...

I beg your pardon, Joan, but did you just say in your comment that Lori Drew should be ruled innocent on grounds of stupidity???

Lawgiver said...

So what you're saying, Lawgiver, is that pedophiles are not arrested and convicted for what they *do*... they are arrested and convicted for what they *are*.

Nope, not at all.

I don't know the laws in your state but I believe pedophiles are usually not considered criminals unless they act out their sexual desires in some way on a child. There has to be a physical, sexual component. Physical and sexual being the key terms. Romantic components don't cut it. Lori Drew is not a pedophile.

Darcy said...

Bless you, Pogo. That's exactly right.

Synova said...

That's interesting, Lawgiver.

How on Earth do they ever catch any of those dudes in the sting operations with adult cops pretending to be young girls or boys, if the offender isn't actually guilty of anything until they act on it?

Lawgiver said...

How on Earth do they ever catch any of those dudes in the sting operations with adult cops pretending to be young girls or boys, if the offender isn't actually guilty of anything until they act on it?

I believe it's called intent. If you watch those shows you're talking about they never arrest anyone for just talking about the sex they want to have with the children, they arrest them when they show up for the sex. That's the beginning of the physical component and when they get busted. Somehow I thought you would know that.

Joan said...

Big Mike asked, very politely: I beg your pardon, Joan, but did you just say in your comment that Lori Drew should be ruled innocent on grounds of stupidity???

No, I said I wasn't willing to make any assumptions about what Lori Drew's thought processes were during the events leading up to this trial, mostly because I don't think there was much of one.

Drew is obviously guilty of violating MySpace's ToS, but then again, so was Megan at the time of her death -- she was only 13 and at the time MySpace's minimum age requirement was 14 (if that cached page I saw was accurate -- could have been a fake). Thousands, possibly millions, of people lie on MySpace. I'd bet more people lie on MySpace than are completely truthful. If Drew is convicted and sentenced to jail, I think that she could argue that she was a target of selective prosecution.