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Online Hoax = Computer Fraud

Alright. Now maybe we’re getting somewhere. The last time I wrote about an alleged cyber crime I debated the efficacy of the Japanese police regarding a woman who had logged into a friend’s internet game account (with the login info he himself had given to her) and killed off his beloved avatar. A "crime" for which she was arrested and jailed. (See Murder On The Avatar Express)
Recently, a federal jury in Los Angeles handed down what legal experts say is the country’s first cyber-bullying verdict, convicting a woman from Missouri of three counts of computer fraud. The woman, Lori Drew, created a MySpace page under the false name of Josh Evans, specifically to communicate with and screw around with her daughter’s "arch rival" Megan Meier, who was only 13 and who had a history of depression and suicidal ideations. Drew spent weeks online as “Josh” courting Megan and making her fall in love with "him." Then, Drew suddenly became hostile and told her “The world would be a better place without you.”
This, prosecutors said, pushed Megan over the edge to suicide.

I’m a mother and I have to say that there have been times along the way when I wanted nothing more than to drop kick some little snot-nose-street-rat friend of one or two of my kids, right the hell into next week. And if I’m to be honest I’ll admit I’ve probably read one or two of them the riot act over the years – something to the effect of "The next time your mother sends you over without giving you your ADHD meds you can FUH-GETABOUTIT!!" We all have our moments of temporary insanity where we say or do things out of anger or frustration that we later wish we could take back. But to be a parent and go to the trouble of making a false account for the sole purpose of tormenting someone else’s child for extended periods of time is just plain over the top.

Sentencing is soon, though I’m not sure it’s worthy of the potential jail time she is facing as our prison systems are painfully overburdened and the cost it would take to keep her in jail would be a waste of needed tax dollars. Instead, along with a journey through federal court hell, her name and face is splashed all over the evening news thanks to a tireless media in constant search of shocking material. She should serve something like ten years of community service, along with competent therapy. Lots of it. At her expense. And a good bitch slap or two if you ask me.

And while embarrassment and loss of credibility in the community can be a fairly stigmatizing punishment, it wasn’t my child who died. The universe is a funny thing. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Call it God, Karma, or Quantum Physics, what goes around comes back around. And something tells me the universe ain’t done with her yet.

By Lesli Jason

Lesli Jason is a writer and editor living in the Miami area.
"Sometimes it takes the ridiculous to make the ridiculous look ridiculous."

2 replies on “Online Hoax = Computer Fraud”

Mr. Zargham makes an important point, in that the law has failed (as it often does) to keep up with the world and technology. And while necessity is the mother of invention, we can’t lose sight of the fact that Meier’s parents should have been more aware of what their daughter was doing online. As the mother of four, I will admit that have installed software on my kid’s computers that lets me know what they’re doing and with whom they’re doing it. Allowing a thirteen year old to socialize unmonitored on the internet is akin to allowing that same thirteen year old to go to a nightclub unmonitored. They can make all the laws they want about cyberbullying, but they can’t legislate horse sense.

Ms Jason, while your points are usually interesting and unusual, you may have missed the point here. The real question here is why the charge is not more serious than only ‘computer fraud’ when involving an adult’s behavior surrounding to the death of a child. This story is about how harshly a grown woman engaging in ‘cyberbullying’ should be punished for taking on a challenged girl in a deceptive psychological game.

As you point out, we all feel at one time or another ‘moments of temporary insanity’ around children. But they are not comparable to the measured strategy employed by Lori Drew over a an extended duration to prey upon Megan Meier’s adolescent weaknesses to humiliate her.

Ms. Drew took it upon herself to punish Ms. Meier for rumors about gossiping about Ms. Drew’s daughter. Yes, rumors about gossiping – hearsay. If Ms. Drew had real concerns, she could have taken it up with Ms. Meier’s mother and straightened the whole matter out – much like you or I might. But she didn’t, Ms. Drew maliciously attacked a minor psychologically.

It seems in a bitter twist of irony that the punishments surrounding Ms. Drew do not fit the ‘crimes.’ Her punishment of Ms. Meier was excessive, and the punishment doled out by the prosecutor and jury to Ms. Drew was lacking. It went something like this: gossip and you get driven to suicide; drive someone to suicide for gossip and you get a slap on the wrist.

It is appropriate that Ms. Drew be punished to the extent of the law. Unfortunately, the law is toothless with regard to matters of the internet. Had Ms. Drew behaved like others in the recent history of not-so-balanced people leveling the competition – hired a hit man like Wanda Holloway in the “Texas Cheerleading Murder” case, or had her ‘ex’ pop her competition in the knee as did Tonya Harding – the law would be clear. But she didn’t, Ms. Drew harassed Ms. Meier with an assumed identity over the internet. The despair that resulted led Ms. Meier to take her own life.

Unfortunately, there is no law available to prosecutors and juries to send Ms. Drew to jail where she belongs. Ms. Drew engaged in predatory online behavior that contributed to a child’s death. The result should be incarceration. If there is no appropriate law, then new law is required to put people who did what Ms. Drew did in jail.

And maybe you are right, humiliation just might have to be punishment enough for Ms. Drew in this case. I suggest that it might be appropriate to help teh universe remember Ms. Drew’s dastardly act in perpetuity. The new law could be named something like “The Lori Drew Cyberbully Act.”

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