Judge Throws Out Convictions in MySpace Hoax

Yesterday U.S. District Court Judge George Wu threw out the misdemeanor convictions of Lori Drew, the Missouri woman blamed for precipitating the suicide of a 13-year-old girl by assisting a cruel MySpace prank, under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Taking a cue from critics such as George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr (who ended up serving as a pro bono attorney for Drew), Wu said he was worried that the legal theory underlying U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien's prosecution of Drew could make any violation of a website's terms of service a federal crime. "It basically leaves it up to a website owner to determine what is a crime," Wu said, "and therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract."

O'Brien, a grandstanding prosecutor who bravely took on one of the most reviled people in America by twisting federal law beyond recognition so he could bring Drew to trial in Los Angeles for actions that were not criminal in Missouri, was contrite. Just kidding:

O'Brien...said after the decision was announced that the law needed to be strengthened.

"We call it cyber-bullying, and we don't have a law to address it," he said at a news conference.

O'Brien, who plainly has no concern about how his self-aggrandizing prosecutions imperil civil liberties, probably has in mind something like this

I condemned the Drew prosecution here. Other Reason coverage of the case here.

[via The Moderate Voice]

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  • Ken||

    "Grandstanding" is an understatement. O'Brien is (and was throughout this case) not merely an Assistant U.S. Attorney -- a line prosecutor -- but THE U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, the most powerful federal law enforcement official in Southern California. The Central District encompasses seven counties and about 18 million people. O'Brien is the head of an office with about 250 Assistant U.S. Attorneys.

    And he tried this case [em]personally.[/em]

    He's the first U.S. Attorney to do so here in, as far as I've been able to determine, at least 30 years.

    He got what he wanted -- headlines and air time.

  • Lester Hunt||

    Thank God for this.

  • Kyle Jordan||

    I'm glad this was overturned.

    Though, I wouldn't mind seeing Drew kidnapped by an escaped mental patient, stabbed 23 times, and then have the escaped mental patient rape each stab wound.

  • ||

    He's the first U.S. Attorney to do so here in, as far as I've been able to determine, at least 30 years.

    He got what he wanted -- headlines and air time.


    Where do these people come from? People like Thomas O'Brien, I mean -- people so blindly hungry for power and willing to forcefully manipulate other human beings for their own gain.

    I'm being serious. Did you know anyone like this, in say, high school? I didn't, at least not that I'm aware of. From my vantage point, the Thomas O'Briens of the world just seem to "show up," more or less, fully formed in adulthood somehow.

    I'm just kind of perversely fascinated with such beasts, where they come from, what they were like as children, how they grow into their monstrousness.

  • Jonas||

    Kyle, I can agree with your overall idea, but I think your chronology is a little off. I'd rather it be done stab-wound/rape combos in succession, rather than all 23 stabs at once and then all 23 rapes following. Prolong the pain, introduce some psychological torture, and all that jazz you know.

    I feel kind of cruel for saying that, but then I remember what this Drew bitch did. Obviously though the government has no power to prosecute what happened, so it's great this got overturned.

  • SIV||

    TORTURE THE FUCKING CUNT!!! LYNCH THE BITCH!

  • Kyle Jordan||

    "I'm being serious. Did you know anyone like this, in say, high school? I didn't, at least not that I'm aware of. From my vantage point, the Thomas O'Briens of the world just seem to "show up," more or less, fully formed in adulthood somehow."

    My friend married a girl we went to high school with that was very much like you described. And he was surprised when she turned out to be just as we tried to warn him. Love/really good pussy has a way of blinding folk.

    Jonas,

    Good call. Just as long as there's a large quantity of severe suffering.

  • ||

    The legal theory was bogus, but I kind of hate to see a murderer walk.

  • Mike||

    "I'm being serious. Did you know anyone like this, in say, high school?"

    A lot of the people that ran for student council.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Where do these people come from?

    The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout and I: The Creation of a Serial Killer by Jack Olsen helped me understand how seriously messed up people function/form.

  • ||

    RJ: Lori Drew may be a really terrible person. And the suicide of a 13 year old girl is a tragedy. People everywhere may be quite right to shun Drew. But it is a huge jump (in my book) from societal shunning to the state imposed sanctions for murder (ie, imprisonment or even the death penalty).

    So, exactly what was the "murder"?

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    It's funny, because even though I was referring indirectly to O'Brien, I also could be referring to Lori Drew.

  • Ray Gardner||

    99% of the public will never understand why it was wrong for this woman to be prosecuted. They'll never get past the emotional response of who she is and what she deserves in the way of karma, or whatever.

  • radar||

    People equate a sense of what's right and fair with the criminal justice system as though they are one and the same. Lori Drew is an awful human being, and I hope she ends up living under an overpass and eating out of dumpsters. Because of that, people quite understandably believe that she deserves to be in prison. They just hop right over the hurdle of, "But what law did she break?"

  • ||

    It seems to me that the best way for justice to be served here would be for some member of the victim's family to do her in, and then for a jury to acquit said person. That would serve as a very effective deterrent to any miscreants who might want to follow Drew's example in the future.

    -jcr

  • ||

    exactly what was the "murder"?

    What's the murder when a mafioso orders a hit, but doesn't carry out the dirty work himself?

    Drew committed a fraud that induced her victim to commit suicide.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Did you know anyone like this, in say, high school?

    A couple of the kids my high school were power-hungry larval politicians. Of course, we were in the DC suburbs, and some of these kids were the offspring of elected parasites and their staffers.

    -jcr

  • ||

    The law is the law.

  • Um||

    I'd rather it be done stab-wound/rape combos in succession, rather than all 23 stabs at once and then all 23 rapes following. Prolong the pain, introduce some psychological torture, and all that jazz you know.

    Please take us libertarians seriously.

  • ||

    Come on, tortured? I sure hope those who believe that someone who was mean on the internet deserves torture and death also believe that those plotting to kill tens of thousands could receive some a bit of torture, maybe even execution?

    This woman might be a bully, but last time I checked, that isn't cause for the death penalty. How many other people who committed suicide had people bully them? And if someone's suggestion is enough to indite for murder I suppose Judas Priest murdered those two teenagers who shot themselves after listening to one of their songs?

    The people responsible for the death of this child are her parents and the child herself.

    If someone killed themselves because Al Gore had bullied them into believing they were "murdering Gaia" would he deserve the death penalty? Ok, I admit I might favor this one....

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    The people responsible for the death of this child are her parents and the child herself.

    I agree with this and still think Lori Drew is loathsome (grown person emotionally manipulating a 13-year-old=loser.). This judge did do the right thing throwing out the conviction, however.

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    I'm being serious. Did you know anyone like this, in say, high school?

    The asshole who was always trying to organize everything in high school is now the asshole mayor of Albuquerque.

    .... "FWIW" Hobbit

  • SIV||

    SIV | July 4, 2009, 12:30am | #
    TORTURE THE FUCKING CUNT!!! LYNCH THE BITCH!



    Although the spoof post echoes my sentiments on the Drew case , I'm notthe "ALL CAPS!" type of commenter.

  • ||

    Well the way I see it is the chick killed herself. There is no one else to blame!

    RT
    www.anonymize.tk

  • zoltan||

    It seems to me that the best way for justice to be served here would be for some member of the victim's family to do her in, and then for a jury to acquit said person. That would serve as a very effective deterrent to any miscreants who might want to follow Drew's example in the future.


    Isn't this/was this legal in Texas?

  • ||

    Interesting examples on the tyrannical tyros. Guess my high school, in suburban Charlotte, was just more laid back or something. I mean, we had big strivers and high achievers and all that. But as far as I know, all the student-council types went into the corporate world, family businesses, etc.

    None, as far as I know, kicked into MUST RULE THE WORLD mode.

  • ||

    "The Myth of Moral Justice" by Thane Rosenbaum

    This book looks at our justice system. The author does a great job of examining how plaintiffs look for the courts to give them some sort of morally equivalent retribution and the courts structural inability to do so.

    I very good read IMO.

  • ||

    The only person from my school daze that loves him some power is now a state legislator in Idaho running for U.S. Congress. He is a bully of the first magnitude up there and a dumbass to boot. But he is a local good ole boy that brings home the pork to all the right folks and gets re-elected regularly. In middle school, he was a little whiny assed bitch that loved to suck up to the teachers and snitch on evil-doers. His appetite for power seemed to grow from the fact that he was a submissive mommas boy and all around authority pleasing punk.

  • ||

    O'Brien, a grandstanding prosecutor who bravely took on one of the most reviled people in America by twisting federal law beyond recognition so he could bring Drew to trial in Los Angeles for actions that were not criminal in Missouri

    This is definitely a guy who should die in a highly-publicized episode of auto-erotic asphyxia in a sleazy Bangkok hotel room.

  • ¢||

    None, as far as I know, kicked into MUST RULE THE WORLD mode.

    Do you know anyone who votes?

    Them.

    (Being a pussy about it changes nothing.)

  • ||

    I was having a beer and a sandwich in a little roadside bar in New York, many years ago, and in swaggered a New York State Trooper (notorious authoritarian assholes, to a man), who was, I am absolutely convinced, a guy I went to high school with.

    That guy was a dickless bully in high school; State Trooper was a natural progression for him.

  • Ray Gardner||

    That's another aspect of it; what about the dead girl's parents?

    They raised this girl to be such a fragile basket of neuroses that this loser Drew could push her so easily over the edge.

  • ||

    What's the murder when a mafioso orders a hit, but doesn't carry out the dirty work himself?

    Drew committed a fraud that induced her victim to commit suicide.



    In the first case a murder actually occurred (though it was done by someone besides the mafioso). In the second there was no murder.

    And note that if a mafioso decided that Tulpa needed to die and arranged the hit, there's not much doubt that I'm going to be murdered whether I like it or not. Whereas someone who commits fraud in an effort to make me commit suicide is not going to be successful without my cooperation.

  • hmm||

    Thank god. Everyone involved has been through hell and this assclown of a prosecutor has done nothing but draw it out and make it worse.

  • ||

    This reminds me of an issue I have with public attorneys who run for office. Nearly every single one of them hold up their high ratio of conviction rates as a reason to vote for them. in my mind someone in that office should be more concerned with uncovering truth rather than simply pushing for conviction on every single case heard.

    I know that's incredibly naive of me to say that but its how I feel.

  • ||

    Keep in mind that the conviction rates are a percentage of cases the prosecutor chooses to bring to trial, not every case that the police investigate. So, high conviction rates can be a sign that the prosecutor hasn't been bringing cases to trial unless he or she already has enough evidence to convict. That's a good thing from a libertarian perspective, I think.

  • anarch||

  • cls||

    This is a case where losing was the best thing but where I am not displeased the case was brought. What this woman did was horrendous. She was an awful woman. I didn't mind seeing her prosecuted and sweating about what she had done. But I didn't want her convicted as it would be a bad legal precedent. But Drew is someone who deserves the hatred of others for what she intentionally did to that young girl.

  • LibertyLover||

    jcr: Drew committed a fraud that induced her victim to commit suicide.

    Therefore, could Drew would be justly prosecuted for committing fraud, or lying?

  • SIV||

    Perhaps I've mellowed a bit on this case as no one in the community or, more justifiably, Megan Meier's family has resorted to extra-judicial punishment.My preferred penalties of the pear,molten lead,boiling oil,and breaking on the wheel probably don't pass Constitutional muster so I'll just say: Lori Drew, do the world a favor, please kill yourself cunt.

  • hmm||

    Lori Drew, do the world a favor, please kill yourself cunt.


    Just don't say that on a myspace page while pretending to be a teenage boy. You might be prosecuted. Or is it persecuted?

  • Freedom, from the Truth||

    Or is it persecuted?

    It's called being held personally accountable, and all you libertarian junkies had best ask why this woman isn't.

    She connived to mislead and make vulnerable a young girl by enticing her into believing lies; and the most disarming kind of lies at that; but all some of you care about are the stupid, impotent statutes. A girl is dead, some liars are skipping off, and the rule book has been satisfied. What a crop of abstracted, neutered verbiage the law is. A sick joke, perversely intrusive until it fails; then everyone cries "freedom", because accountability is nowhere to be found. A sick, ironic joke.

    Where is the judge with balls enough to make this woman sit in a room with the family and counsellors while they confront what she has wrought? I guess on the hit and run internet, nobody is real; certainly integrity is not the driving principle.

    Personal responsibility? There was none. The dead girl was just a child; wake the hell up.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Freedom, from the Truth | July 4, 2009, 11:47pm | #

    Rorschach? Is that you?

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Whoever that was, that post can only be read in voice-over.

  • anarch||

    Freedom, from the Truth



    Accurate handle.

  • MaterialMonkee||

    "Rorschach? Is that you?"

    haha

    damned tricky situation, this woman was a clearly a bitch, but I suppose its the equivalent of sneaking into you're kids school and writing nasty graffiti about someone on a toilet door

    If you have kids you just have to try your best to teach them to deal with other people's aggression as its pretty much a certainty in life unless you become a hermit

  • hermit||

    That's what you think.

  • ||

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  • MNG||

    I'm all for making this kind of behavior actionable or criminal, as long as it's done carefully to reach this kind of situation and not be overbroad. It could be something like an action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and restricted to when the victim is known to be a minor or something. But if there was no such action or charge available in this case, to try to charge her with something that does not fit is a waste of time and an injustice...

  • ||

    I have to admit, it makes pretty good sense to me dude!

    RT
    www.anonymize.tk

  • hmm||

    It's called being held personally accountable, and all you libertarian junkies had best ask why this woman isn't.



    Action: victims suicide
    Mental state: victims depression

    Who is personally accountable for what? The person accountable, and oddly enough the one who committed an illegal act, is fucking dead. She killed herself. What you want to do is place the blame for an action on someone else. This has nothing to do with statutes, and everything to do with the underlying logic and personal responsibility. If everyone that was influenced by a conniving misleading person in the US wanted to sue every politician would be in a hurt locker.

    There is no such thing as,"...done carefully to reach this kind of situation and not be overbroad." The point is for the law or idea to be applied blindly to all relevant situations and not have some judge decided that, "oh this is particularly heinous, lets use the mean rules now." A lot of rules and laws are there not only to punish for actions against society, but to protect some of the things society would arbitrarily punish because it doesn't like them at sometime.

    You can hate the woman all you like, but lynching her in court or at the nearest tree is not an option.

  • anarch||

    It could be something like an action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and restricted to when the victim is known to be a minor or something.



    And when the minor or something is the aggressor, as in Get off my lawn/Get your snub-nose out of my face/Get your sword out of my kidney, you twerp or something?

    You're giving cops and prosecutors and judges a lot to parse, and we know how self-restrained they are...

  • anarch||

    Also, isn't the duty of a parent and schoolteacher intentionally to inflict emotional distress from time to time?

  • hmm||

    You're giving cops and prosecutors and judges a lot to parse, and we know how self-restrained they are...

    They aren't self restraining, like you point out. The next point is this is why statues exist to restrain them. Even with statutes more times than not they manage to remove intent of the statute from the application of the statute and run roughshod over peoples rights.

  • anarch||

    ...which is why Don't Be Evil (TM) isn't the only statute on the books.

  • MNG||

    "The person accountable, and oddly enough the one who committed an illegal act, is fucking dead. She killed herself."

    Dude, she was a minor. We don't hold minors accountable for things they were induced into, we tend to hold the adult inducer (e.g., statutory rape).

  • MNG||

    anarch
    In most IIED standards the conduct must be outrageous, and I hope most parents and teachers don't fall under that in dealing with minors...

  • anarch||

    MNG, would you hold cops dealing with emotionally disturbed persons to the same standard as, or a lower or a higher standard than, everyone else? (Figuring out that syntax gave me emotional distress.)

  • hmm||

    Dude, she was a minor. We don't hold minors accountable for things they were induced into, we tend to hold the adult inducer (e.g., statutory rape).

    Minors are often held accountable for their actions, especially those actions ending in death. Society has just determined they are less severely punished. Your entire argument hinges on being "induced" which is a thin legal, moral, and logical line to walk even with respect to minors. If you want to start trying people for inducing others into action over the internet through lies you are going to run into a very messy situation. The, "protect the children" line of thinking when promulgating law is dangerous to say the least.

  • hmm||

    (The right thread.)

    Cyber-bullying is bullshit. It's nothing more than a shift of personal responsibility from parents and individuals to someone else. The idea that my calling anyone a fucktard online or telling someone they should go play in traffic is an actionable crime based on the actions of the person it was directed at is absurd.

    The hypocritical nature of posts here calling for her death or worse because she was mean on the internet are pretty funny. If she killed herself tomorrow we would be looking at quit a few criminals by their own standards.

  • MNG||

    I wouldn't make mean on the internet actionable, but outrageous behavior (making up a fake teen-ager, pusposefully befriending a known unstable minor, and then intentionally trying to inflict emotional distress on that minor)

    I agree you have to be careful to make this narrow.

  • ||

    To be fair, what Drew did went far, far beyond just calling someone a name on a message board. She went to a great amount of trouble to press all the right buttons on this girl, and had this girl's suicide as her specific goal. She is human scum and needs to be held accountable in the court of public opinion (which I'm fairly sure she will be).

    Unfortunately, I don't see how there could be a clear, non-vague statute that forbids what she was doing but doesn't forbid other activity that should be legal. And I sure as hell don't trust prosecutors and judges to use their judgement to choose between the two.

  • ||

    I agree you have to be careful to make this narrow.

    But how? You have to admit it may not be possible to do so.

  • MNG||

    If it were not possible to make it narrow enough, I'd rather not have any law...The intentional infliction of emotional distress stuff I talked about above has usually been held to apply to just outrageous stuff like what what Drew did. Perhaps if we were to fashion a criminal statute we could make an IIED to minors type of thing, with the idea that adults usually are and should be considered accountable for their own acts, but minors not so much...We could make it an element that the person had to know the victim was a minor...

    So the elements would be:
    1. Defendant acted intentionally or recklessly; and
    2. Defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous; and
    3. Defendant's act is the cause of the distress; and
    4. Victim suffers severe emotional distress as a result of defendant's conduct
    5. Defendant knows or has reason to know that victim was a minor

  • MNG||

    So the usual flame war here on reason would not qualify. It's not outrageous or extreme enough, and/or no reason to assume the recipient or target is a minor, etc.,

  • Douglas Gray||

    Tulpa: "She had suicide as a specific goal?" That is assuming something about the other person's motivation that you really don't know.

    To "induce" even a minor to commit suicide is sort of like inducing them to kill someone else, or rob a bank. Suggesting to a minor that they commit a crime, whether done seriously or in jest, (or part way in between) is not admirable, but to try and prosecute? It gets murky.

    It is tragic that the girl took her own life, but the little deception on the Internet contributed only partially to it; it was not the sole cause, and it is impossible to determine if even it was the primary one.

    The Mother may not want to face the fact that her daughter was extremely fragile emotionally; it is easier for her to come to terms if she can blame someone other than her daughter.

  • anarch||

    Douglas Gray, here's the locus classicus of such murkiness.

  • robc||

    anarch,

    If nothing else, Im guessing Douglas Gray learned to use pronouns more carefully.

    Yes, yes, he (Gray) never actually said it (the title of the film).

  • B||

    For fuck sake, there is no such thing as cyber-bullying. If you don't like people saying mean and nasty things about you on the internet, fucking ignore them. Christ, what the fuck ever happened to "Stick and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me"? Evidently we are supposed to wipe our ass with the Constitution because some unstable teenager whose parents were obviously on a 13 year vacation committed suicide after she was "dumped", from miles away by an imaginary boy she obviously never even met.

    If you don't like being pestered online, fucking ignore it. There is no inalienable right for thin skinned crybabies not to have their feelings hurt.

  • B||

    "3. Defendant's act is the cause of the distress; and"

    Geez, that isn't more broad than the Pacific Ocean, is it?
    Exactly what is defined as "distress". Does that mean if a whiny little crybaby gets upset because of insults, it should be a prosecutable offense? Some people are distressed over the most minor shit on Earth. It used to be we would tell them "too fucking bad" or "quit being a crybaby" but now we are contemplating throwing people in jail over this shit? If I want to insult and tease people over the internet, that is my fucking right. If someone doesn't like it, too fucking bad. Would I feel remorse over it because someone ended up killing themselves? No fucking way. If you are 13 years old and you hang yourself after being dumped by someone you knew for a few months that you never even met, then that is no one else's fault.

  • Aristotle, chiming in||

    "3. Defendant's act is the cause of the distress; and"

    Geez, that isn't more broad than the Aegean Sea, is it?
    Exactly what is defined as "cause".

  • ||

    Isn't this/was this legal in Texas?

    Well, a jury can always acquit a defendant, anywhere in the USA. In Texas, you have the option of what's known as the "he needed killing" defense, which is a justifiable homicide theory; the defense is allowed to introduce evidence against the character of the deceased. The jury has to agree for this to succeed, of course.

    -jcr

  • ||

    I don't see how there could be a clear, non-vague statute that forbids what she was doing but doesn't forbid other activity that should be legal.

    There are places that have laws to punish "inducement to suicide".

    And I sure as hell don't trust prosecutors and judges to use their judgement to choose between the two.

    That's what juries are for.

    -jcr

  • hmm||

    It seems like it is getting harder to trust juries with some of the manipulations that have gone on with jury instructions and evidence rulings. At least it seems that way.

    I can't find the article, but I read an article with numerous quotes from jurors based on them only being allowed a narrow window judge the case. (if I find it I will post it)

    Any insight lawyerly person?

  • ||

    That's what juries are for.

    Let me rephrase: And I sure as hell don't trust prosecutors, judges, or the juries selected by prosecutors and manipulated by judges to use their judgement to choose between the two.

    I prefer jury trials to judge trials in criminal matters. However, I definitely prefer no trial at all when you're talking about something that shouldn't be illegal at all. You want to be thrust into a trial before a jury full of mommies and daddies for calling some kid a whiny asshole on the Internet and making him cry all night? I sure as hell don't.

  • Rich||

    > If you want to start trying people for inducing others into action over the internet through lies you are going to run into a very messy situation.

    Let's hope it's even messier to start trying people for inducing others into action over the internet through *truth*.

  • ||

    This is great news. My fake blog (youareadouchebag.com) that causes people to commit suicide can go back online.

  • ||

    Now we just have to figure out a way to lure Barney Frank to your site. The obvious route of sending him an email offering free gay porn may be blocked by his spam filter, so we may have to be more clever.

  • ||

    I wouldn't make mean on the internet actionable, but outrageous behavior (making up a fake teen-ager, pusposefully befriending a known unstable minor, and then intentionally trying to inflict emotional distress on that minor)

    I agree you have to be careful to make this narrow.


    The only way to sufficiently narrow it, MNG, would be to put strikeout tags before and after the proposed law, making it blank out.

    Emotional overreaction to a single situation when making laws, while ignoring the actual consequences on all other situations, generally does not end well.

  • a Christian||

    Emotional overreaction to a single situation when making laws, while ignoring the actual consequences on all other situations, generally does not end well.

    With one One notable exception.

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