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Guilty verdicts in case of MySpace user's suicide

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Mother says verdict is justice for daughter, others who've been harassed online
  • Jury deadlocks on felony conspiracy charge, convicts on misdemeanor counts
  • Lori Drew was accused of violating MySpace terms by using false profile to harass
  • Megan Meier, 13, hanged herself after perceived MySpace love interest rejected her
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From Traci Tamura
CNN
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(CNN) -- A Missouri woman was convicted of three misdemeanor counts 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.

But a jury declined to convict Lori Drew of the more serious conspiracy charge in a landmark case testing the limits of cyberbullying.

Drew, 49, of O'Fallon, Missouri, was 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 her perceived love interest spurned her, 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.

The teen's mother, Tina Meier, had mixed reactions to the split verdict.

"Of course, we were wanting convictions on all of them. But it is still a stepping stone," Meier said. Video Watch Tina Meier's reaction to verdict »

"It's never been about vengeance. This is about justice -- justice not only for Megan, it's justice for everybody who has to go through this, with the computer and being harassed," said Meier, who attended the trial. "I don't want another family to have to stand here and go through what I've had to endure."

Drew was convicted of three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress on Meier.

U.S. District Judge George Wu declared a mistrial on a fourth count of conspiracy after a California jury failed to reach a verdict.

After the verdicts were read, Drew's defense attorneys said they intend to file a motion for a new trial on the misdemeanor counts. That motion must be filed by December 29.

The original charges against Drew carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison upon conviction. The misdemeanor charges each carry a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a fine of $100,000, according to Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in the Central District of California.

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 fraudulent information to obtain personal information about a juvenile and to "harass, abuse or harm other members."

U.S. attorney Thomas O'Brien said he was "comfortable" with the trial's outcome.

O'Brien said the case sends a message that his office will go after anyone who attempts to go after a girl using the Internet. Parents, he said, should also keep tabs on their children's online activities.

"This is obviously a case that means a lot to me," he said. "You can't help but be touched by the tragedy here, and we did everything possible to try to make it right."

Lawyers for Drew, who claimed she never read the terms of service so she couldn't have violated them, suggested that Drew was being made into an example.

Drew's defense attorney said the case remains "deeply tragic."

"My client was puzzled by the verdict," said H. Dean Steward, calling the case "deeply tragic." Video Watch attorney's reaction »

"I don't really know what to make of it," he said. "The bottom line is, somebody's got to pay. A lot of people seem to have picked out my client to do that."

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Missouri prosecutors declined to bring charges against Drew in last December, when Megan committed suicide.

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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