LOS ANGELES (AP) - A federal judge on Thursday heard arguments
on a defense request to dismiss the conviction of a Missouri woman
involved in a MySpace hoax on a 13-year-old girl who committed
U.S. District Court Judge George Wu did not immediately rule after oral arguments and will likely issue a written decision, although he didn't indicate when. However, he did set an April 30 sentencing date for Lori Drew, who was not present.
Drew was found guilty in November of three misdemeanor counts of
accessing computers without authorization.
Prosecutors said Drew violated MySpace service rules by helping create a fictitious teen boy on the social networking site and sent
flirtatious messages from him to young neighbor Megan Meier.
The fake boy then dumped Megan in a message saying the world
would be better without her. She soon hanged herself.
If Wu grants the defense motion, he would set aside the jury's verdict and enter a judgment of acquittal.
Jurors found Drew was not guilty of the more serious felonies of
intentionally causing emotional harm while accessing computers
without authorization and couldn't reach a unanimous verdict on a
felony conspiracy charge.
The case hinged on an unprecedented application of computer-fraud law. Drew was not directly charged with causing Megan's death, but she was indicted under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which in the past has been used in hacking and trademark theft cases.
Defense attorney Orin Kerr argued that it's not a crime to violate a Web site's service terms under current law.
"The question here is: What is the proper reading of the statute?" asked Kerr. "Reading the law, there is insufficient evidence to find someone guilty of a misdemeanor."
Prosecutors want Wu to dismiss the conspiracy charge "in the interests of justice," according to court documents, but didn't elaborate. The judge did not make a decision.
Drew faces up to three years in prison and a $300,000 fine. The
trial was held in Los Angeles because the servers of social
networking site are in the area.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)