Join 3,431 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Justice at last?
November 26, 2008 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Lori Drew has been found not guilty on felony charges. However, she was found guilty on three misdemeanor counts. (Previously: 1, 2)
posted by Kimothy (55 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Well, from NPR it sounded like the prosecutors put on a bad witness, since part of their case hung on Lori having accepted the TOS.

I always thought Conspiracy was easier to prove, since I didn't think the left hand was required to know what the right hand was doing.

Prosecutors were also hamstrung once the judge ruled they couldn't admit the suicide into evidence. This was up in the air a week or so ago, with the judge stating he was strongly leaning against allowing this in. I'm pretty sure it didn't make it in, but don't see this reference in the article.
One juror, who would only identify himself by the first name, Marcilo, indicated jurors were not convinced Drew's actions involved the intent alleged by prosecutors.

"Some of the jurors just felt strongly that it wasn't tortious and everybody needed to stay with their feeling. That was really the balancing point," he said.
Gotta love a juror that uses the word "tortious." Bet he learned that from the judge like 3 days ago.

And I love this:
Drew's lawyer, Dean Steward, contended his client had little to do with the content of the messages and was not at home when the final one was sent. Steward also argued that nobody reads the fine print on service agreements.

"How can you violate something when you haven't even read it?" Steward asked. "End of case."
I am so totally going to use this argument to get out of my mortgage. Well, and any other contract I ever signed.

This all said, I've long maintained that we shouldn't be protecting kids from the internet, we should be protecting the internet from kids. If you're a think skinned, emotionally unbalanced, depressed teenager, unsupervised internet use is probably not a good thing. I realize this is blaming the victim to a degree, but it's also a warning. There's dangerous things out there on the internet, predators, questionable content, and ideas. It's called parenting.

I feel bad for the girl, think what Lori Drew did was evil and monstrous, but the parents and the victim both bear culpability as well.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:41 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Among other things, Drew was charged with conspiring to violate the fine print in MySpace's terms-of-service agreement, which prohibits the use of phony names and harassment of other MySpace members.

"The rules are fairly simple," federal prosecutor Mark Krause said. "You don't lie. You don't pretend to be someone else. You don't use the site to harass others. They harassed Megan Meier."


Christ that's stupid. Generally if you violate a site's TOS you get kicked off. The idea of throwing someone in prison for violating one, or even more laughable "conspiracy" to violate one is idiotic.

While what this woman did was clearly fucked up, the government shouldn't be able to come up with crazy-ass interpretations of the law and throw people in prison whenever it feels like.
posted by delmoi at 1:48 PM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Gotta love a juror that uses the word "tortious." Bet he learned that from the judge like 3 days ago.
Yeah, damn jury applying the actual law and following the judges instructions rather then going with their "gut" and burning the witch.
posted by delmoi at 1:50 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also this:
I am so totally going to use this argument to get out of my mortgage. Well, and any other contract I ever signed.
Are you arguing we should bring back debtors prisons? Don't pay your mortage, go to jail for "conspiracy to break a contract"?

If you don't pay your mortage, you lose the house (as stipulated in the contract). If you violate a sites terms of service, you get kicked off the site. You don't go to prison.
posted by delmoi at 1:52 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


The thing that kills me about these kinds of things is that these people continue to have friends, associates, family. If I knew someone who did such a horrible, horrible thing to a kid, an animal, anyone, I honestly don't believe I could ever acknowledge the person again. I'd carve them out of my life as much as is possible--erring on the side of caution and carving at myself to make sure there's no remnant of them remaining.

I don't understand how anyone who knows Drew couldn't do that. How can you say, "Hello" or "How are you?" or "Have a nice day" or any innocuous thing to such a person and mean it without throwing up and hating yourself for doing it? And a sustained or in-depth conversation! How is it possible?
posted by Manhasset at 1:53 PM on November 26, 2008 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I have to say while I think Drew was mostly responsible for the death and I would have loved to see some action taken against her for coordinating the harassment of the teen, this entire case was built around figuring out a way to stretch the law any way possible in order to get a conviction. Violating some website's terms of service shouldn't get you in the slammer, it should just break you from the service. It seems like existing harassment law should cover what transpired here.

I fear (even speaking as a website owner that could benefit from such stretching of the law) what future suits may be brought against people based on various interpretations of TOS violations.
posted by mathowie at 1:57 PM on November 26, 2008


What Lori Drew did is hateful, but putting her in jail for violating the terms of service sets a really bad precedent. Maybe Blizzard can really crack down on gold sellers in World of Warcraft now, and throw them in jail!
posted by pombe at 1:57 PM on November 26, 2008


Yeah, the theory put forth by the prosecution in this case is insane and dangerous. I sure as hell hope this conviction gets thrown out on appeal.

Criminal hacking charges should not attach to TOS violations. No fucking way.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:58 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


The idea of throwing someone in prison for violating one, or even more laughable "conspiracy" to violate one is idiotic.

This cannot be repeated enough.
posted by oaf at 1:59 PM on November 26, 2008


I don't think the woman was guilty of murder, just of being a vicious cunt. She is facing some time and a huge fine and no doubt a wrongful death suit that will be harassing her for the rest of her life.

I have to agree with cjorgensen, the parents should have been paying a little more attention. That they fell down on the job is their punishment, I hope they can acknowledge their culpability as well. Although, I have a feeling this will continue in the media with them playing the martyr role, perhaps cynically, to win the next round. I hope a good thing can come out of this; revisiting the problem of kids and the internet.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 2:02 PM on November 26, 2008


That they fell down on the job is their punishment,

Huh? How did the parents fall down? Or are you saying all parents of suicides have done a poor job?
posted by Manhasset at 2:04 PM on November 26, 2008


I hope a good thing can come out of this; revisiting the problem of kids and the internet.

I don't know if it's that much of a problem. This isn't the 90's, the new parents of today have been using the internet since their teens and it will be familiar to them, not some new exotic threat.
posted by delmoi at 2:06 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, I'd argue that TOS violations could possibly result in a lawsuit as well (depending on the service / terms, monetary damages could certainly occur). So just "kicking off the site" is perhaps not enough.

However, I fully agree that criminal charges are going way too far. Anything actually "criminal" should be covered by.... criminal law.

The problem with this case is that most people want her to face some sort of punishment for what she did, but the law doesn't cover that... and unfortunately it's probably not going to, since while this case is fairly stark, the nature of the crime is hard to prove and easily misapplied.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:09 PM on November 26, 2008


How can you say, "Hello" or "How are you?" or "Have a nice day" or any innocuous thing to such a person and mean it without throwing up and hating yourself for doing it? And a sustained or in-depth conversation! How is it possible?

Is forgiveness kind of like a bailout. It doesn't happen for the little people who fuck up.
posted by Xurando at 2:11 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did she at least get her 5 dollars back?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:13 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I disagree that the parents "fell down on their job". They had Megan in treatment for depression and ADD and just before Megan died, she and her mother had an argument about the vulgar language Megan was using in response to the messages she received and over the fact that Megan did not log off when her mother told her to. Megan ran upstairs to her room and 20 minutes later was found hanging in her closet.

Her parents knew about the bullying and her depression and were trying to help her cope with it. I don't see how they could have done more, reasonably.
posted by orange swan at 2:15 PM on November 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


Is forgiveness kind of like a bailout.

I think some things are unforgivable. A grown woman bullying a depressed child until she commits suicide--and soliciting the help of her own child to do it? Yeah, there's no pass for that, I'm afraid.
posted by Manhasset at 2:18 PM on November 26, 2008 [11 favorites]


Her parents knew about the bullying and her depression and were trying to help her cope with it. I don't see how they could have done more, reasonably.

Exactly. From what I have read they were very engaged and concerned parents.
posted by ericb at 2:26 PM on November 26, 2008


Her parents knew about the bullying and her depression and were trying to help her cope with it. I don't see how they could have done more, reasonably.

Agreed.
posted by davejay at 2:27 PM on November 26, 2008


"How can you violate something when you haven't even read it?" Steward asked. "End of case."

As a lawyer, I hope he reads everything he signs and/or agrees to.
posted by ericb at 2:34 PM on November 26, 2008


I'm blown away by the weird bullshit we've decided to allow in our justice system these days. A _hacking_ charge? This is destructive prosecution, it's weakening a good law. If you convict someone of the now stretched out and funked up law, and they appeal and get out of it (which I have little doubt will happen here), you're setting precedents for overturning other _actual_ hacking cases.

Tarded.
posted by jarvitron at 2:36 PM on November 26, 2008


I just want to say, if that guy who bought the lolita manga can be charged with possessing child pornography, how in the fuck is a forty-something-year-old woman pretending (?) to have a romantic interest in a thirteen-year-old girl not a sexual predator?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:43 PM on November 26, 2008 [10 favorites]


me: Gotta love a juror that uses the word "tortious." Bet he learned that from the judge like 3 days ago.

delmoi, "Yeah, damn jury applying the actual law and following the judges instructions rather then going with their "gut" and burning the witch."



I was only commenting on the use of the word. Seemed a bit pretentious. But since you ask, I'm always up for a good witch burning.


me: "I am so totally going to use this argument to get out of my mortgage. Well, and any other contract I ever signed."

Are you arguing we should bring back debtors prisons? Don't pay your mortage, go to jail for "conspiracy to break a contract"?

If you don't pay your mortage, you lose the house (as stipulated in the contract). If you violate a sites terms of service, you get kicked off the site. You don't go to prison.


But the defense was she didn't read it. If the defense had been, "She fully read it, and believed that the worse that could be done was losing her account," then I would be with you. But to use ignorance as a defense rankles a bit.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:48 PM on November 26, 2008


If the defense had been, "She fully read it, and believed that the worse that could be done was losing her account," then I would be with you. But to use ignorance as a defense rankles a bit.

But no one ever reads website terms of service or software end user license agreements. These things are never, ever read, by anyone.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:51 PM on November 26, 2008


That's right — ignorance of the law is not considered a defense for breaking it. However, it's hard to say what laws Drew was breaking, disgraceful as her behaviour was. Maybe we need anti-bullying laws. But even if we had them, breaking them wouldn't be felonious, but misdemeanours.
posted by orange swan at 2:56 PM on November 26, 2008


I'm okay with this decision. The damages should come from a civil case.
posted by linux at 3:16 PM on November 26, 2008


cjorgensen: Actually, Judge Wu changed his mind and allowed information about the suicide in to the trial.

Details about the testimony is available over at Wired's blog. Some interesting details: Megan Meier actually signed up when 13, a violation of MySpace's TOS, and allegedly created a fake profile claiming to be 18 as well.

I'm glad to see that the jurors didn't allow themselves to be completely swayed by the mother's testimony, and I'm not surprised that they compromised on misdemeanor charges as opposed to the felony charge.

Orin Kerr over at Volokh.com is working on her defense team, so there's a lot of information about the case available there.

The next step is waiting for the Judge to rule on their Rule 29 motion to dismiss, which could happen, and appealing if the judge turns them down. The fact that she was acquitted on the felony changes the legal environment quite a bit, apparently, in that it would focus the appeal on "the legal question of whether it is in fact a federal crime to violate the Terms of Service of a website", per Orin Kerr.

I'm hoping that my habit for giving out fake birthday and contact info for sites that don't really need it doesn't become a federal crime, personally.
posted by dragoon at 3:18 PM on November 26, 2008


In following this case off and on, I really grew to despise this woman. But my anger is confounded by frustration when the prosecutions seeks to right this wrong by going after ... the TOS?!

Yes, good that this was defeated. Now maybe they can move on to another way to make this miserable creature pay for what she did.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:28 PM on November 26, 2008


I fear (even speaking as a website owner that could benefit from such stretching of the law) what future suits may be brought against people based on various interpretations of TOS violations.

Really? I would've thought we'd welcome legal injunctions to burn all self-linkers.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:37 PM on November 26, 2008


"In the matter of Metafilter LLC v SEOwizdotcom, I hereby find the defendent guilty of violating the Terms of Service by gratuitously linking to a penis enlargement website for his own financial gain.

The defendant will be taken to the cells. At dawn tomorrow, he will be removed from the cells, tarred & feathered, nailed to a cross of his own creation, and [*puts white handkerchief on wig*] fitchforked until dead..."
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:45 PM on November 26, 2008


But the defense was she didn't read it. If the defense had been, "She fully read it, and believed that the worse that could be done was losing her account," then I would be with you. But to use ignorance as a defense rankles a bit.
The ignorance was one part of the defense. And it wasn't that she clicked it without reading it, but rather she never read it because she hadn't been the one who opened the account.

Taking one quote from a news story and turning into "the defense" is about as stupid as signing a contract without reading it.
Details about the testimony is available over at Wired's blog. Some interesting details: Megan Meier actually signed up when 13, a violation of MySpace's TOS, and allegedly created a fake profile claiming to be 18 as well.
So if this prosecutor's theory had been correct, Megan would have been just as much of a felon as her tormenter.
posted by delmoi at 3:50 PM on November 26, 2008


So if this prosecutor's theory had been correct, Megan would have been just as much of a felon as her tormenter.

Of course who would have suspected that her sentence would be death?
posted by Kimothy at 3:56 PM on November 26, 2008


"How can you violate something when you haven't even read it?" Steward asked. "End of case."

Erm, WHAT? It makes sense referring to TOS agreements, and in that context: Yay!, but it seems to me a defense lawyer should know that "I didn't know it was against the rules!" is no defense at all.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:06 PM on November 26, 2008


This is a ridiculous case. The whole things belongs in civil court, not criminal. Making it a federal crime to violate a terms of service means that every single person reading this is almost certainly a federal criminal.

The defendant is a despicable human being. And this case should never have been brought against her.
posted by Justinian at 4:08 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I reluctantly accept that this may be the only justice Drew faces from the criminal system -- and that's a big may, as an appeal is certain.

My personal view is that it isn't strictly violation of the TOS, it's violation of the TOS in commission of another crime, namely harassment or stalking. I don't know beans about Missouri law but I still don't understand why she wasn't prosecutable on any charge -- were they just confusticated because a computer was involved, so "cyberbullying" is somehow not really the same as any other kind of harassment? That said, in my mind the concept here is along the lines of felony murder -- not in seriousness, but in construction. As in, it wasn't murder that the bank robber had in mind, but when his pal shot the guard.... Here she obviously only meant to commit one set of acts and those resulted in something drastically more than she anticipated, but she should still bear some culpability. Perhaps the theory that was prosecuted was insufficiently robust, but then this was a federal-only prosecution, like when Stacey Koon et al. were charged with violating Rodney King's civil rights. Well, they whupped his ass, but were his civil rights really in their mind?
posted by dhartung at 4:11 PM on November 26, 2008


The thing that kills me about these kinds of things is that these people continue to have friends, associates, family.

Believe me, you don't ever want to meet Lori Drew's friends, associates and family.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:15 PM on November 26, 2008


it isn't strictly violation of the TOS

Not a crime.

it's violation of the TOS in commission of another crime

What crime? What Drew did was reprehensible, and from what I've seen, she deserves to lose the wrongful-death lawsuit she's going to face. The prosecutor needs to be demoted or disbarred, though.
posted by oaf at 4:17 PM on November 26, 2008


UbuRoivas: Really? I would've thought we'd welcome legal injunctions to burn all self-linkers.

I don't know if you think you're joking or not, but the prosecution's theory would very plausibly make a federal crime out of posting a self-link to Metafilter.

dhartung: My personal view is that it isn't strictly violation of the TOS, it's violation of the TOS in commission of another crime, namely harassment or stalking.

That may be your personal view, but that is absolutely not what Lori Drew was charged with. The prosecution's theory is that TOS violations are criminal irrespective of any other crime being facilitated through the violation.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 4:35 PM on November 26, 2008


I've read several articles about this story and I can't figure out why the prosecutors didn't go after Ashley Grills, Lori Drew's then-teenage "assistant," rather than Drew. By all accounts, Grills was the one who created the "Josh Evans" account and sent the final "The world would be better off without you," message to Megan, ostensibly from Josh. It feels to me like the prosecution decided the jury was more likely to hate Drew than Grills (how could a mommy do such a thing?), and a hatin' jury is a hangin' jury.
posted by cirocco at 4:40 PM on November 26, 2008


I am of two minds about this. I think this woman and her pals did an evil act. To the people who are blaming the victim's parents-- all I can say is, I hope you don't have children or interact much with parents of teens.

Anyone who thinks parents can control every second of a teenager's life is delusional and can end up hurting teens via this view more than they help if they try to do it. The girl's parents did everything humanly possible to help her. They weren't perfect-- are you?

My worry here is the way they got this conviction. If you could trust prosecutors to use their discretion, I wouldn't have this worry so much. I'm glad it was on the misdemeanors, not the felony-- because that makes more sense.

But if prosecutors try to use this law in this way for trivial offenses, it could be really troubling. I think what Lori Drew did was deeply immoral-- but I'm really not sure it was illegal.
posted by Maias at 5:16 PM on November 26, 2008


I'd just as soon spit in this woman's face as speak to her, but I can't see how she can be convicted of what they convicted her of. It'll be dropped on appeal.
posted by empath at 5:17 PM on November 26, 2008


I don't know if you think you're joking or not, but the prosecution's theory would very plausibly make a federal crime out of posting a self-link to Metafilter.

and?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:37 PM on November 26, 2008


and?

And we should trick our enemies into posting self-links to Metafilter, then call the local AUSA. What did you think?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:39 PM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know if you think you're joking or not, but the prosecution's theory would very plausibly make a federal crime out of posting a self-link to Metafilter.

Empirically ridiculous. If the federal government enforced half the laws already on the books, several CEOs and most of the Bush Administration would be in shackles by now. Slippery slope fallacies aside, there are many behaviors that are already "against the law", except for a lack of enforcement.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:03 PM on November 26, 2008


Empirically ridiculous. If the federal government enforced half the laws already on the books, several CEOs and most of the Bush Administration would be in shackles by now. Slippery slope fallacies aside, there are many behaviors that are already "against the law", except for a lack of enforcement.

What are you babbling about? This has nothing to do with empirical observation, Bush, CEOs, or slippery slopes. Why do you show up in every legal thread and make yourself look like an absolute fool, anyway?

The question is simply whether violating a TOS is a federal crime. Lori Drew's prosecture says "yes". This is not a slippery slope, because it's the actual theory that someone was actually prosectuted on.

If you think there are other federal crimes committed as obliviously, innocently, and regularly as TOS violations, I'd love to hear about them.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:14 PM on November 26, 2008


I personally think this woman and her daughter and the assistant should be followed for the rest of their lives by the cloud of Megan's death, but this prosecution was a stretch at best.

That said; I hope that good people everyone turn their backs upon them. What they did was unforgivable, and I hope they reap the rewards of their own evil.
posted by dejah420 at 7:00 PM on November 26, 2008


"A _hacking_ charge? This is destructive prosecution, it's weakening a good law."

Al Capone was put away for tax evasion. The law in this case clearly had not caught up with technology. Law is often much less logical than you or Spock would probably like, but every now and then someone actually does their best to do good with what laws are in the books. In this case it took a prosecutor from a far-away state, because MySpace's servers were in California.

And she wasn't found not-guilty of all of the felony charges. The jury was hung on one of the felony charges, which means she could be re-tried, though I doubt it will happen.
posted by eye of newt at 12:19 AM on November 27, 2008


With any luck, she'll trip and fall down a flight of stairs, land in a pile of old asbestos waste, contract mesothelioma, and suffer a good long time on her way off this planet.

Some people really don't deserve to live.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:26 AM on November 27, 2008


me: Gotta love a juror that uses the word "tortious." Bet he learned that from the judge like 3 days ago.

delmoi, "Yeah, damn jury applying the actual law and following the judges instructions rather then going with their "gut" and burning the witch."


I was only commenting on the use of the word. Seemed a bit pretentious.


Exactly why you were called out. It wasn't pretentious - it was using a legal word with a precise definition.
posted by agregoli at 8:01 AM on November 27, 2008


Why do you show up in every legal thread and make yourself look like an absolute fool, anyway?

After your stubbornly ignorant performance in the thread about Geneva Conventions, to give one example, you're in no position to lecture anyone here about the law, then, now or in the future. And my point about your slippery slope fallacy stands. Support for the prosecution's argument was an aberration, so until Metafilter's users start getting summons to show up in court, no one need worry about self-posting suddenly becoming a federal crime.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 AM on November 27, 2008


Al Capone was put away for tax evasion.

I was wondering if someone would bring that up.

Yes, because Al Capone was charged with Tax Evasion, but that's because he actually evaded taxes. The government was able to prove that he'd received payments that he hadn't paid taxes on. People go to jail for run of the mill tax evasion all the time.
posted by delmoi at 11:04 AM on November 27, 2008


And my point about your slippery slope fallacy stands. Support for the prosecution's argument was an aberration, so until Metafilter's users start getting summons to show up in court, no one need worry about self-posting suddenly becoming a federal crime.

The problem isn't that the government will start throwing every self-linker in prison, it's that the government will have more tool to "get" people on that they want to put in jail, whether or not they actually deserve it. Imagine if the bush administration decided to that Iranian blogger in prison, they could do it because Matt said himself that his posts were getting "self-linky"

it's an expansive interpretation of the law in order to put someone reprehensible in prison, and if it could be used on her, it could be used on people who are politically inconvenient next. Or (more likely) it could be used to cover up for federal prosecutors mistakes. Target the wrong person by mistake, then find a TOS violation in their past and use that as leverage to make a "deal"
posted by delmoi at 11:09 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


The problem isn't that the government will start throwing every self-linker in prison, it's that the government will have more tool to "get" people on that they want to put in jail, whether or not they actually deserve it.

Exactly. The decision was made that Lori Drew was a mean lady and had to be jailed. So, they decreed that violating someone's TOS was equivalent to hacking, and slapped criminal charges on her for something that isn't a crime.

This will set a horrid precedent if it's allowed to stand.
posted by oaf at 8:15 AM on November 28, 2008


The idea of throwing someone in prison for violating one, or even more laughable "conspiracy" to violate one is idiotic.

I don't know, some of the crappy FPP's around here violate the guidelines so badly someone should go to jail!
posted by Pollomacho at 8:21 AM on November 28, 2008


There's an episode of The Jetsons in which a "code red" is issued against George for offending the sensibilities of some robot. Basically means that everything electronic denies him service. Seems appropriate here.
posted by electroboy at 8:27 AM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


« Older Massive coordinated terrorist attack in Mumbai....  |  America's Defense Meltdown: Pe... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments