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Jury deliberates in MySpace suicide trial

  • Story Highlights
  • Jury gets case after arguments to dismiss charges against Lori Drew
  • Drew is accused of violating MySpace terms by creating false profile to harass teen
  • Defense lawyers claim that Drew, 49, never read terms
  • Megan Meier, 13, hanged herself after perceived MySpace love interest rejected her
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By Ashley Broughton
CNN
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(CNN) -- California jurors will resume deliberations Wednesday in the trial of a Missouri woman accused in the case of a 13-year-old girl who committed suicide after she was criticized on the Web site MySpace.com.

Megan Meier, 13, hanged herself in her bedroom after being targeted in a MySpace hoax.

Lori Drew, 49, of O'Fallon, Missouri, is accused of fraudulently using the site to pose as a teenage boy who feigned romantic interest in the girl, Megan Meier.

Meier committed suicide after the "boy" spurned her, at one point telling her the world would be a better place without her, according to federal prosecutors.

At the time of her death, Meier's family and Drew's family lived near each other in suburban St. Louis.

Drew is charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress on Meier, who is identified in court documents as M.T.M. Each count against Drew would carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison upon conviction.

The jury, which began deliberating Tuesday, emerged at one point to ask whether it could reach verdicts on three counts but be deadlocked on one, according to Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for the Central District of California.

The judge said that would be acceptable, though he encouraged the jurors to continue deliberating, Mrozek said.

The jurors are scheduled to return at 9 a.m. PT Wednesday.

Drew was indicted in May. The indictment was returned in Los Angeles, California, because MySpace is based there.

The indictment alleges that Drew and others created an account on MySpace under the name "Josh Evans" and used the account to contact Meier, beginning what the girl thought was an online romance with a 16-year-old boy.

With those actions, prosecutors alleged that Drew violated MySpace's terms of service by using a fraudulent information to obtain personal information about a juvenile and to "harass, abuse or harm other members."

After prosecutors rested their case, defense attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Drew, calling them "absurd."

U.S. District Judge George Wu heard arguments on the motion Friday and Monday, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for the Central District of California.

Drew and her alleged co-conspirators never read the terms of service, so they could not have intentionally violated them, defense attorneys argued.

"The defendant is on trial for intentionally violating MySpace's terms of service," the motion says. "However, the government has offered no evidence whatsoever that the defendant or any of the alleged co-conspirators intentionally violated MySpace's terms of service."

In response, prosecutors said they did not have to show that Drew had read the terms of service to prove she knew that her accessing the MySpace servers was unauthorized.

"[The defendant] knew her conduct in helping to create a fictitious juvenile account and then use this account to torment another juvenile, M.T.M, was 'illegal,' wrong and in violation of MySpace's rules, yet continued using the MySpace account to further this conduct," prosecutors said in their response to the motion to dismiss.

The judge reserved making a ruling, opting to see what the jury's verdict will be, a common move in federal trials, Mrozek said.

Missouri prosecutors declined to bring charges against Drew in December. At the time, St. Charles County Prosecutor Jack Banas said Drew had arranged for the MySpace account to be set up in order to find out what Meier was saying about her daughter.

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