LOS ANGELES – A federal judge on Monday questioned whether prosecutors were correct in bringing charges against a Missouri mother who was involved in a MySpace hoax directed at a 13-year-old neighbor who ended up committing suicide.
U.S. District Judge George Wu had been scheduled to sentence Lori Drew on three misdemeanor counts of accessing computers without authorization. However, Wu delayed sentencing until July 2, saying he wanted to review the testimony of two prosecution witnesses.
Wu squared off with Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Krause for more than an hour about a defense motion seeking to dismiss Drew’s conviction. The judge wondered whether Drew should have been indicted under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which in the past has been used in hacking and trademark theft cases.
“Using this particular statute is so weird,” Wu said.
He also was concerned that sentencing Drew for violating a Web site’s service terms might set a dangerous precedent. He said millions of people either don’t read service terms, as happened in Drew’s case, or give false information.
“Wouldn’t that constitute a misdemeanor if the court adopts the government’s position in this case?” Wu asked.
Much attention has been paid to Drew’s case, primarily because it was the nation’s first cyberbullying trial.
Prosecutors said Drew sought to humiliate Megan Meier by helping create a fictitious teen boy with the help of her then-13-year-old daughter Sarah and business assistant Ashley Grills on MySpace and sending flirtatious messages to the girl in his name.
The fake boy then dumped Megan in a message saying the world would be better without her. She hanged herself a short time later in October 2006.