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Judge Overturns MySpace Cyberbullying Verdict

The L.A. Times reports that a federal jury convicted Drew in November of three misdemeanor computer crimes, but deadlocked on a felony conspiracy charge that would have carried a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. The prosecutors were essentially relying on the fact that Drew had intentionally set up a fake account, and in doing so, intentionally violated the site’s terms of service. U.S. District Judge George H. Wu threw out the verdict yesterday, claiming that if the convictions stood, anyone who violated MySpace’s terms of of service could be convicted.

The case dates back to October 2006, when 13-year-old Megan Meier hung herself with a belt in her bedroom closet after a friend on MySpace began to send her negative messages.

Megan began speaking to a 16-year-old boy by the name of Josh Evans through the social networking site. The boy claimed he was new to the area, was home-schooled and did not yet have a phone number. After a couple of weeks, the messages to Megan turned nasty, with the last allegedly telling the girl, "the world would be a better place without you." Meier was found later that day hanging in her bedroom closet.

It then emerged that "Josh" was a fictional character apparently made up by a neighbor living four doors down the street. Lori Drew allegedly made up the account to see if Megan would gossip about her own daughter (a former friend of Megan's) to her new friend on MySpace.

A former employee of Drew's, 18-year-old Ashley Grills admitted to setting up the account and sending some of the messages to the young girl. Grills admitted to sending the final message but only in an attempt to cut contact with the girl, as she felt the hoax had gone too far.

Read more about Drew's acquittal on the L.A. Times.